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Solar Energy to Power Student Apartments

New York Power Authority and UB to partner on largest solar array installation on a NYS campus

Release Date: May 7, 2009

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In its effort to promote renewable energy technologies throughout New York State and in response to Governor Paterson's call to expand New York's renewable energy portfolio, the New York Power Authority today joined with the University at Buffalo to announce a $7.5 million award to the university to construct a 1.1 megawatt solar energy array on UB's North (Amherst) Campus. The solar array, consisting of approximately 5,000 photovoltaic panels, will generate clean energy directly from the sun for students living in UB's apartment complexes.

NYPA will work with UB to provide site design, engineering and construction services for this project.

The award to UB will serve as a cornerstone of NYPA's $21 million statewide renewable energy program and will advance the UB 2020 strategic plan's focus on making the university's three campuses great places to live, work and learn, in part by improving their environmental sustainability.

It will be the largest solar installation on any college or university campus in New York State and one of the largest on any campus in the United States, according to the American Solar Energy Society.

"This partnership between NYPA and UB exemplifies how New York State is poised to become the leader in this new energy economy," said Governor David A. Paterson. "This project also demonstrates my administration's commitment to achieving the clean energy goals of the ambitious '45 by 15' program, which will create clean energy jobs throughout New York State, and result in greater energy independence and a cleaner

Richard M. Kessel, NYPA president and chief executive officer, said "NYPA is committed to investing in Western New York, and the University at Buffalo is the perfect partner for promoting, developing, educating and training in photovoltaic technologies for a cleaner environment, energy independence and green-collar jobs.

"Through this project, NYPA is making great strides in advancing Governor Paterson's '45 by 15' initiative, which sets a date of 2015 by which New York State is to meet 45 percent of its electricity needs through improved energy efficiency and clean renewable energy."

According to NYPA, UB's North Campus solar array will reduce carbon emissions at UB by more than 500 metric tons per year.

Designed to produce 1.1 megawatts (1.1 million watts) of electricity, the UB solar array is expected to be operating by fall 2010. It will provide power to UB's Flint, Hadley, South Lake and Creekside Village apartments, a total of 735 apartments, housing nearly 2,000 undergraduate and graduate UB students.

According to NYPA, the UB solar array will be specially designed to operate in a cold weather environment and to withstand heavy snowfall, serving as a benchmark for future systems in similar climates. In doing so, the UB/NYPA project will promote the development of innovative solar technologies.

As a result of this project, Western New York could become a new center for green-collar jobs, as the UB/NYPA partnership includes collaborations with the university and area colleges to start training and certifying personnel in the installation of solar panels.

UB President John B. Simpson said UB "takes great pleasure in accepting this exciting grant from the New York Power Authority."

"This grant not only recognizes UB's long record of environmental leadership, but it commits us to a greener, more sustainable future that is exactly in keeping with the goals of UB 2020 and Building UB," he said.

"By helping us generate our own power on campus, this solar array helps us take a significant step toward meeting one of the primary goals of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, in which the university has pledged to go 'climate-neutral,'" Simpson added.

Combined with existing clean energy purchases, this project puts UB well past the 15 percent interim renewable energy target set for signatories of the Presidents' Climate Commitment.

Simpson noted that the project also will foster UB education and research with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in the area of renewable energy.

It will provide students and researchers with the opportunity to study and track the real-time functioning of an on-site clean energy system. The system will include a data acquisition feature that will be especially useful in research and education.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom about Buffalo's weather, data from the National Weather Service shows that from May through November, Buffalo is the sunniest and driest city in the Northeast, making it an ideal candidate for generating solar power.

The project will give many UB students the unique experience of living in apartments where their electricity is provided not by the burning of fossil fuels hundreds of miles away but by the clean, renewable power of the sun here on campus with virtually no greenhouse gas emissions, Simpson noted.

UB student Emily Bauer, member of the UB Environmental Stewardship Committee and a delegate to the State University of New York Student Assembly, said she and her fellow students look forward to construction of the solar array on UB's campus.

"Climate change is one of the biggest problems facing the next generation and is of great concern to UB students," she said. "By stepping up as a leader in solar energy, UB has shown it is committed to a bright future for our environment."

State Senator Antoine Thompson said the NYPA/Buffalo partnership is a step forward for green energy in Western New York. "As Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, I have been focused on making Buffalo an epicenter for green initiatives," Thompson noted. "An institution of the size of UB making the decision to run on solar panels instead of electricity is a step in the right direction. Conserving energy and resources in this way benefits the environment greatly."

The new solar installation at UB will be the largest ground-mounted PV system in New York State.

Its 5,000 panels will be installed on or adjacent to the North Campus grounds of the Melvin H. Baker Chilled Water Plant on Flint Road, which delivers utility services to the 1,200- acre suburban campus.

This will be UB's second solar electric system; in 2006, UB installed a 73.5 kilowatt demonstration solar system on top of Norton Hall, which provides at least 6 percent of that building's power.

Media Contact Information

Ellen Goldbaum
News Content Manager, Medicine
Tel: 716-645-4605
goldbaum@buffalo.edu
Twitter: @egoldbaum