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University going solar

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Solar panels are going up on campus, between the physical plant and the softball field. The lengthy construction process started a year ago and is expected to be completed by Dec., President Joe Garcia said.“By the beginning of December, the University will be one of the largest solar electric power systems on a campus anywhere in the nation,” said Joe Garcia, president of the university.

Discussion of the solar project began in June 2007, when BP Solar and Smart Growth Advocates asked Colorado State University-Pueblo to take part. The current construction site was chosen since the land could not be used for anything else, Garcia said.

In Sept. 2007, Aquila awarded a grant to CSU-Pueblo to pay for the more-than-one megawatt solar system to be placed on campus. In the following months, codes were passed, meetings were held and agreements were signed. The project was announced by all three partners in July 2008.

CSU-Pueblo, BP Solar, and Black Hills Energy (formally known as Aquila) have partnered to “help control the University’s utility costs as prices and usage increase, promote the use of a sustainable resources, help satisfy Black Hills Energy’s state mandates, and allow BP Solar to bring a major solar project to Southern Colorado,” Garcia said.

Garcia said the completed project is expected to be three-acres and more than a megawatt in size. It should to take care of 10 percent of the University’s electricity needs, enough electricity to power 225 homes and suppress almost 1,600 tons of carbon dioxide, the same as taking 330 cars off the road.

The University has only paid $28,000 for the project for electrical consultant, $20,000 of that was for State-mandated code review of the design documents for the project.

BP Solar is responsible for the cost of design, construction, and maintenance of the solar array for a 20-year term. After 20 years, ownership of and responsibility for the system will transfer to the University, according to a report presented to the Board of Governors of the university.

“The goals for this project are to make the university a model sustainable and show environmental sensitivity to help protect the environment and use less fossil fuels. Another goal is to use what we have been given, it makes since to have a solar panels put here as our climate provides us with much wind and sun,” Garcia said.

He said the project has been moving very quickly. Half of the posts and wiring infrastructure has already been installed. The first completion date of Jan. 2009 finish date has been moved up to the beginning of December.

“The University will initially pay no more for the electricity generated by this photovoltaic solar array than it would have paid to the current public utility, Black Hills Energy,” the campus report said.

“If BHE rates increase more than 4.25% annually during the 20-year term, the University will come out ahead. In the unlikely event of a peak demand offset by the PV solar array, the University will still pay less than it would have paid to BHE for the power generated by the solar array.”