OGDEN — Come fall semester, Weber State students will have access to parking that is covered by a new structure — but the university plans to use that structure for more than just shielding cars from the elements.
Construction begins this week on a metal covering that will be built over the W10 parking lot on the northwest corner of the Ogden campus, according to a university press release and campus map. The structure will be located between parking services and the LDS Ogden Institute. A solar array will be installed on top of it, taking advantage of the very sunlight it will protect vehicles against.
The structure will cover an existing parking lot rather than adding levels of parking. But it will create covered parking for students, as well as faculty who don’t mind walking a little farther, according to Justin Owen, energy manager for the university. The covered parking area will also be equipped with charging stations for electric cars, he said.
This structure is the first of nine renewable energy projects of a similar size that the university will be conducting over the next two decades, Owen said. The projects are part of the university’s effort to be carbon neutral by 2050.
“We use this term ... ‘economic environmentalism,’” Owen said. “We’re doing (these projects) because it makes financial sense and helps us get our environmental goals.”
The new solar array will generate 80% of the energy consumption of Lindquist Hall, according to the university release.
Lindquist Hall sits southeast of the W10 lot, just across Edvalson Street. The building is a LEED Gold rated building, according to the university’s website. This means that the building has attained the second-highest of four rating levels in the LEED green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, according to the USGBC website.
There are some drawbacks to creating structures to mount solar arrays, Owen said, but there are also advantages. The drawback is the cost of labor and materials to build the structure, when solar panels can be installed on the ground, he said.
A benefit is that a covered-parking structure reduces costs in other ways, such as parking lot maintenance and snow removal, Owen said. In addition, installing arrays this way saves space. Weber State’s Davis Campus has a solar array that supplies all of the campus’s electricity, as reported by the Standard-Examiner, but the array covers eight acres that can’t be used for anything else, Owen said.
Installing solar arrays on covered-parking structures “lets you double dip on your space,” Owen said.
The time frame for this project is relatively short. The work begins this week, with plans to be completed by fall semester.
“We really press those schedules so we don’t interfere with any of the academic operations of the university,” Owen said.
The closure of the university due to the COVID-19 pandemic also allowed work to begin earlier than planned, he said.