Powering the future

Feb 132011
Authors: Jason Pohl

CSU has completed construction on a 30-acre solar field on the Foothills Campus –– one of the largest solar plants at a university in the country.

The new plant consists of more than 23,000 solar panels and is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 6 million kilograms each year. The 8.5 million kilowatt hours produced every year will power one-third of the university’s Foothill’s Campus, home to many of the graduate studies and scientific research groupsat CSU.

That amount of energy is enough to power roughly 950 homes annually, according to a press release from the university.

Beginning in 2009, the first phase consisted of building a 2,000-kilowatt solar electric array on 15 acres of land. Additionally, Array Technologies provided a single-axis tracking system, making it possible to track the sun throughout the day to maximize the amount of energy captured and utilized.

“Through smart design and efficient use of materials, the tracker maximizes the energy production of the CSU system,” said Ron Corio, the president of Array Technologies.

The second and final phase began in Fall 2010 with an additional 15 acres being utilized for an additional 3,300-kilowatt array of panels. Final efforts were put into place in the weeks leading up to the December completion.

Local Fort Collins’ company Advanced Energy supplied the inverters that convert from DC power to something that can be utilized in homes and businesses –– AC.

The plant is owned and operated by Fotowatio Renewable Ventures, and it is taking advantage of numerous tax credits and incentives under the Power Purchase Agreement.

“By securing solar power through a purchase agreement rather than major capital investment, CSU is benefiting from a renewable energy system that is very cost effective,” said Jose Benjumia, president of FRV.

In return for leasing the land to FRV, CSU can purchase and utilize energy produced at a fixed cost for 20 years. This will limit carbon emissions, as well as cut down on utility costs to the university.

Xcel Energy has also agreed to purchase Renewable Energy Credits to aid in meeting Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard, a measure that requires large utility companies to generate at least 30 percent of their power from renewable sources by the year 2020. This diminished the cost of the construction and installation of the project.

The Foothills campus isn’t the only one attempting to promote renewable, clean energy. In 2008, CSU-Pueblo dedicated a 1.2-megawatt solar array.

CSU President Tony Frank said public private partnerships are critical in moving forward in the age of renewable energy.

“Colorado State continues to be a pacesetter in employing green solutions,” Frank said.

What exactly are superclusters?

It’s just business as usual for the multidisciplinary research groups on campus known as “Superclusters.”

Formed under the CSU ventures program several years ago, Supercluster groups’ experts from many different fields of scientific and business research together with the goal of taking findings and science to the masses in a more timely, efficient manner.

The subject matter is focused on three areas that have a global impact including clean energy, cancer research and infection disease.
Superclusters take the scientific intelligence and make it marketable and understandable for the public.

The goal is to improve quality of life for everyone beyond the hundreds of jobs and new businesses that have already been created.

For more information, visit www.superclusters.colostate.edu.

Staff writer Jason Pohl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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