Arizona State University to start rooftop
Jun 10, 2008 - Chris Kahn - The Associated Press
Arizona State University plans to spread solar panels across
the rooftops of its sprawling Tempe, Ariz. campus, creating
the largest solar array at an American university, school
ASU plans to begin installing solar panels on about 135,000
square feet of rooftop in August, about a third of that
available on university buildings. They will provide 2 megawatts
of electricity to the university grid - about 7 percent
of the school's energy needs.
That's enough to power 4,600 computers and reduce ASU's
carbon emissions by 2,825 tons per year.
"We have a tremendous number of buildings that have flat
roofs. It's an ideal place to put these things," Jonathan
Fink, director of ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability,
Fink said the project is part of a larger plan to cut the
school's energy use by installing more insulation, renovating
cooling and heating systems, planting shade trees and adding
other features to buildings to make them more energy efficient.
If they can run more efficient buildings, ASU officials
believe the panels may someday provide 20 percent of the
campus' electricity, Fink said.
Tempe's brilliant, cloudless skies, which have drawn out-of-state
students to ASU for generations, make the campus a perfect
place for solar. ASU researchers have worked on solar technology
since the 1960s, Fink said, and that makes this project
"We like the idea of being able to see results of research
actually being used in our physical plan," Fink said.
The university will use federal and state tax credits to
help pay for the project, and it doesn't expect to have
any upfront costs. School officials said they've hired Honeywell
Building Solutions, Independent Energy Group of Arizona
and SolEquity to develop the project.
The companies plan to sell electricity back to ASU at a
fixed rate over the next 15 years.
"It's a great opportunity for us to develop a partnership
(with ASU) to not only install but maintain this for the
life of the project," said Luca Mazzei, vice president of
strategy and marketing at Honeywell Building Solutions.
Mazzei said it's unknown yet how much ASU will pay for
Federal tax credits have fueled a wave of solar projects
like the one at ASU.
Solar Energy Industries Association spokeswoman Monique
Hanis said solar installations jumped 49 percent in 2007,
compared with the previous year, primarily from private
companies installing rooftop panels.
"I think the public and commercial entities are realizing
that energy is a rising cost, and they want to manage that
cost," Hanis said.
However, Fink said much of that investment could disappear
at the end of this year if Congress doesn't renew the incentives
for solar projects.
"The public doesn't realize what could happen here," Fink
said. If Congress doesn't renew the tax credit "the U.S.
will continue to fall behind Germany, China and Japan for
developing these new technologies."