Company foots UVM’s solar panels

Company foots UVM's solar panels

Solar panels are on track for installation on four buildings on-campus next year.

 

Solar panels will be installed on the Harris Millis, Living/Learning, Mason/Simpson/Hamilton complexes and the Bailey/Howe library starting early 2017, according to the project proposal.

 

The contract is still under negotiation, but Thomas Gustafson, vice president for University Relations and Administration said he feels confident in its implementation.

 

The solar project has been proposed by Burlington Electric Department as a part of its 10-year mission to “transition Burlington to a ‘net zero energy city.’”

 

UVM is BED’s largest customer, James Gibbons, director of resource planning for BED, stated in an email Nov. 4. The company wants to make sure all of its customers make the best possible energy decisions, he said.

 

Greenskies Renewable Energy, a Connecticut-based solar company, outcompeted a number of other companies for the opportunity to conduct this project, Gibbons said.

 

Under the proposed contract the solar panels will be installed for 15 years and then removed, Gustafson said. At that time it will be decided whether UVM wants to continue their use or not.

 

“The reason we will remove them is because the technology is always changing,” he said. “If there is new technology down the line we will assess new installations. It’s also why we’re not doing more installations right now, we don’t want all of the technology becoming obsolete at once.”

 

Installation and removal of the panels will come at no cost to the University and the panels should save about $500,000 in energy costs over the course of 15 years, according to the project’s proposal.

 

The panels will produce 639 kilowatts of power, which is 5 percent of UVM’s heat and electricity, according to the proposal.

 

The power collected by the solar panels will go to the Burlington electric grid, not to UVM’s campus specifically, Gibbons said.

 

Senior Shannon Noonan said she saw potential in the idea.

 

“That’s actually pretty cool,” she said. “If we could power [our own buildings] fully and then other places too that would be great, and if we have the open space then why not?”

 

Provost David Rosowsky emphasized the importance of UVM working with the greater Burlington community.

 

“We want to lead by doing. Energy responsibility as a demonstration project is very important,”  Rosowsky said. “We’ve used the partnership model before when we did the recharging stations [for electric cars]. Partnerships [with Burlington Electric] can be the most successful and have the greatest impact.”

 

Gibbons said he commends UVM for keeping the generated energy in Burlington.

 

“UVM is choosing to make sure renewables stay local,” he said. “It could reduce their [electricity] costs even more [to] sell to someone in Connecticut or something but they’re keeping the power in Burlington.”