March 6, 2017
Infrastructure Planning and Facilities office
Media Communications office
Construction on a new solar array project – a venture that could save the university $10 million over 25 years and help keep tuition in check – has started at Michigan State University.
“The obvious advantage of this project for our students, faculty and staff is cleaner air due to the emissions-free generation of electricity,” said Wolfgang Bauer, a University Distinguished Professor in physics who is assisting with the project. “However, there are significant other benefits such as reducing the university’s utility costs over time. This, in the end, will have a direct effect on keeping tuition rates as low as possible.”
Arrays are a collection of solar panels that are linked together and can act as an additional energy source.
At MSU, solar array carports are being constructed at five different parking lots across campus. The structures will cover most of the parking spaces in each lot and provide partial protection from inclement weather for most cars including taller vehicles, such as RVs, for weekend tailgating. The same number of parking spots that existed before will be available after construction is completed.
“In the summer, the solar carports will provide protection from direct sunlight and prevent parked cars from heating up too much,” Bauer said. “And in the winter, the parked cars will be protected from snowfall.”
In all, the alternative energy structures will produce power to campus during the daytime hours when demand is typically at its highest and will generate more than 15,000 megawatt hours of power per year – about 5 percent of the electricity used on campus annually.
Bauer added that the new arrays offer an opportunity to conduct research as well.
“Student teams from the College of Engineering are already working in collaboration with our faculty and infrastructure employees on using the arrays to research topics such as new power inverter technology,” he said.
This type of renewable energy technology looks at ways to change how electricity is delivered.
Three lots located south of the railroad tracks on campus will be the first to undergo construction. Work on the remaining parking areas will follow, with all lots projected to be completed by the end of the year. During construction, portions of each lot will remain open for parking.
The MSU Board of Trustees in September 2015 approved a power purchase agreement for the project, which is being developed and will be owned by Inovateus Solar, LLC, a solar-energy supplier in Indiana, and Alterra Power Corp., an independent power producer and renewable-energy developer in British Columbia, Canada. The plan supports the university’s Energy Transition Plan to improve the environment on campus, invest in sustainable energy research and contain energy costs.
The partnership will allow MSU to purchase electricity produced from the solar arrays from Inovateus and Alterra at a fixed price for 25 years. MSU will also cover the cost of connecting the arrays to the university’s power grid for about $2.5 million. Project investors will pay all other construction and maintenance costs projected to be about $20 million.
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Michigan State University (MSU) is a public research university located in East Lansing, Michigan, United States. MSU was founded in 1855 and became the nation’s first land-grant institution under the Morrill Act of 1862, serving as a model for future land-grant universities.
MSU pioneered the studies of packaging, hospitality business, plant biology, supply chain management, and telecommunication. U.S. News & World Report ranks several MSU graduate programs in the nation’s top 10, including industrial and organizational psychology, osteopathic medicine, and veterinary medicine, and identifies its graduate programs in elementary education, secondary education, and nuclear physics as the best in the country. MSU has been labeled one of the “Public Ivies,” a publicly funded university considered as providing a quality of education comparable to those of the Ivy League.
Following the introduction of the Morrill Act, the college became coeducational and expanded its curriculum beyond agriculture. Today, MSU is the seventh-largest university in the United States (in terms of enrollment), with over 49,000 students and 2,950 faculty members. There are approximately 532,000 living MSU alumni worldwide.