Weber State Davis switches to solar power

Sunday , November 06, 2016 - 11:15 AM

ANNA BURLESON, Standard-Examiner Staff

LAYTON — Weber State University Davis will start using solar panels this month to generate all of the school’s electricity.

The school’s seven acres of solar panels will produce enough energy to power the equivalent of more than 250 homes for one year, according to a news release, offsetting more than 85 million pounds of carbon emissions over the next 20 years.

WSU Sustainability Coordinator Jennifer Bodine said the campus community is excited about using sustainable energy.

“They also want to see and push for more renewable energy classes, so I would say that yes, there is excitement and support,” she said.

The panels were installed by the California-based company SolarCity, and WSU has signed a 20-year contract to pay the company for the power they generate during that time.

Campus Planning and Construction Project Manager Chad Downs said WSU has put about $19,000 in upfront costs into the solar panel project for things including site preparation and prerequisite electrical work.

At the end of the 20-year contract, Downs said the university will have the option to purchase the solar panels 

The panels, along with WSU’s other green energy initiatives, are also saving the school money. In fiscal year 2016, WSU saved $1.8 million in water and energy costs, and since 2009, the university has saved $7.9 million.

“What’s good for the environment is typically good for your pocketbook as well,” Bodine said.

The school has committed to being carbon-neutral by the year 2050 as part of the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment former President Ann Millner signed on to in 2007 and approved a plan for in 2009.

The project was initially talked about a year and a half ago and construction was completed this summer.

Bodine said construction went quickly because the panels are in an open field and mounting them on buildings would have been more time consuming.

The solar panels are fixed in one place and can’t move, a decision Bodine said was made to keep maintenance costs down.

The panels will sometimes produce more power than the five buildings on campus can use, and because there isn’t a battery to store it, Bodine said the school will be given credit through Rocky Mountain Power to use those kilowatts on cloudier days when the campus is using more electricity than the panels can generate.

“Our electricity needs will be pretty much nearly met by this,” she said.

Heat will still be powered by natural gas at the school.

A ceremony and reception to “turn on” the solar panels is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., Nov. 11 at WSU Davis. 

Contact education reporter Anna Burleson at aburleson@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnagatorB or like her on Facebook at Facebook.com/BurlesonReports.

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