UB begins constructing open area solar modules

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Dan Eastman
April 23, 2021

UB has started the construction of five floor-mounted solar module locations around the North Campus, which, according to official information, will be completed by autumn 2021.

The five new locations – four along Bizer Creek and a larger one along the Amherst Bike Path on the UB property – are expected to produce a total of 11.2 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy, according to a UB statement. UB is currently generating approximately 400,000 kWh from its Solar Strand location, which is located at the Flint Road entrance of the North Campus.

“This spring the university will also publish an external solar RFP (Request for Proposal),” UB spokesman David Hill told The Spectrum. “Together with the projects on site, this will cover 100% of our direct electricity consumption.”

According to Ryan McPherson, UB's Chief Sustainability Officer, these bodies are part of UB's ongoing Climate Action Plan, which consists of 10 initiatives over 10 years. The plan is part of an effort to get UB to get 100% of its electricity directly from clean energy sources by 2025.

“[One initiative] Nickname “not all energy is created equal”, which means that the current load is about 30% of the [UB’s] Greenhouse gas emissions, ”said McPherson. “We have been working on getting this right, how to bring it to zero. One strategy was to acquire credits for renewable energy … but our overall goal was to buy that renewable energy directly on and off campus. We consider this to be the most responsible thing, not just to switch [the footprint] to other communities and places. “

UB is working on the project with Solar Liberty, a western New York company that is the largest solar installer in New York State. Solar Liberty built and operates UB's Solar Strand and has worked with other SUNY schools on solar projects.

Hill says Project UB will cost nothing to build and operate.

“UB is not responsible for paying the upfront costs,” Hill said in a statement. “Instead, Solar Liberty will install, own and operate the solar systems. UB promises to buy the energy the arrays will produce over the next 20 years at an agreed price. “

UB predicts that Bizer Creek's solar panels will produce 2.9 million kWh in the first year, which equates to 487 households per year. This system will cover approximately six acres and house approximately 5,850 solar panels. UB predicts the project will create 27 jobs.

The Solar Stroll – east of the Millersport Highway, next to the Ellicott Creek Bike Path – is expected to produce 8.3 million kWh in the first year, which equates to 1,354 households per year. The system will cover approximately 24.5 acres and house approximately 16,770 solar panels. UB predicts the project will create 37 jobs.

UB was voted No. 1 in the world for climate protection in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2021. The climate protection ranking “evaluates the universities' research on climate change, their use of energy and their preparation for dealing with the consequences of climate change,” says THE.

Of the roughly 20 roofs that were originally designated as potential solar panel homes, four have been designated as “on the way,” including Baird Hall, the Center for the Arts, the Beane Service Center, and the Helm Warehouse. Norton Hall has already installed solar panels on its roof as part of the Solar Strand project. Due to the structural integrity and existing systems on roofs, many of UB's roofs are unsuitable for solar panels.

As for the floor-mounted solar panels, McPherson says their locations – Bizer Creek, off the ramp of I-990 and the bike path – were reviewed under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which assessed the environmental impact of this project on those locations. According to McPherson, the reviews show that the negative effects are being mitigated.

“We wanted to mandate that once these solar panels are up, all land cover is returned to its natural state to create a permanent habitat,” said McPherson. “We also wanted to follow the example that we tried with the solar string here on Campus North; We wanted it to blend in with nature as well as possible and try to find this balance between climate protection and environmental protection. “

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