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Solar energy generation system approved for McIntyre Library

May 20, 2013

Sustainability at UW-Eau ClaireEAU CLAIRE — The University of
Wisconsin-Eau Claire's Student Office of Sustainability (SOS) recently received approval from the Student Senate for a 40-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) solar energy generation system to be installed on the McIntyre Library roof later this year.

The purpose of the PV system, which will use solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity, is to help UW-Eau Claire become more environmentally sustainable and carbon neutral.

A total of 160 Helios panels will be furnished and installed to create the solar array. Eighty panels will be attached to the roof "skirt" of the library and an additional 80 panels will be ballast-mounted on the rooftop. The PV system will be purchased at a cost of approximately $4.15 per watt for a total allocation of $166,686.

Dr. James Boulter, SOS adviser, said that this location was chosen not only because of its cost-effectiveness and location out of the shade, but also because of its visibility on campus.

"Another crucial factor in our choice is that this location will be highly visible," Boulter said. "One of the primary entrances to campus will look down the new campus green space to McIntyre Library, and the solar panels will be immediately apparent."

UW-Eau Claire's Facilities Management department is overseeing the contract for the PV system in collaboration with the Wisconsin State Division of Facilities Development. In 2010, the SOS contracted a campuswide solar site assessment with H&H Solar Energy Services. The assessment determined that the McIntyre Library roof would be the most cost-effective location for solar panel installation.

The panels are estimated to produce 47,586 kilowatt hours per year, which is the equivalent to about $3,800 per year of electricity based on a price of 8 cents per kWh. The PV system will not only help reduce UW-Eau Claire's carbon footprint, but also help to decrease the university's energy expenditures.

The addition of solar panels on the library roof is just one of the ways that the SOS hopes to increase sustainability at UW-Eau Claire in future years. According to Boulter, future projects include pursuing a campuswide "energy dashboard," encouraging the use of alternatives to cars for traveling to and from campus and using waste frying oil from on-campus dining locations to produce biodiesel for campus diesel vehicles.

Boulter said that the SOS at UW-Eau Claire sets an example for other organizations in the surrounding area.

"In fact, the SOS is recognized as a model, both in scale and in structure, for the whole state and actually across a much broader region for this kind of action," Boulter said. "Their existence and achievements are a real testament to the students of UW-Eau Claire."

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OJ/DW

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