UI signs $20 million contract to build second solar farm


Ryan Chow

The Solar Power Panel Farm near First Street and Windsor Road has been in operation since December 2015. The University has recently agreed to a contract on creating a new solar farm.

By Luis Velazquez, Staff Writer

A $20 million contract to create and build a second solar farm, Solar Farm 2.0, near the University was recently signed. Once completed, Solar Farm 2.0 will create the amount of electricity used in 2,000 average American homes. 

The 54-acre solar farm will be built near the north side of Curtis Road, between First Street and the Canadian National railroad tracks by Neil Street.

Under the 20-year contract, Sol Systems, LLC will be designing, building and operating the 10-megawatt solar array and will sell the energy to the campus at a fixed rate of $45.99 per megawatt hour each year.

Discussions of a new solar farm started in 2017, according to a Facilities & Services press release. The site selection was approved in 2018 and Sol Systems, LLC was chosen as the official vendor in February.

The farm is designed to help the University meet clean energy targets outlined in the Illinois Climate Action Plan or ICAP, which means by fiscal year 2025, solar installations on campus property generate 25,000 megawatt hours per year. Currently, the initial 21-acre solar farm on campus produces 7,000 megawatt hours per year. 

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“Solar Farm 2.0 will save money for the campus, compared to purchased grid-electricity,” said Mohamed Attalla, executive director of Facilities & Services. “We expect to save $300,000 next year alone. It will benefit the entire Urbana campus budget.”

Attalla said he believes the first solar farm has been successful, both as a notable step toward using clean energy and as a demonstration of what other organizations, businesses and home-owners can do. People from all around the world have visited the current solar farm, which has enough energy of about 700 typical American homes and was first approved in 2012.

“With over 25 million kilowatt-hours of on-campus solar production each year, the University of Illinois will be in the top three American universities using on-site renewable energy,” Attalla said. 

The other institutions ranked top two for using renewable energy are the University of California campuses and the University of Missouri.

Sean Reeder, assistant vice president of the Office of Capital Programs and Utility Services, said the University is committed to increasing the use of renewable energy and moving toward a carbon-neutral campus.

One major goal for iCAP is for the University campus to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

Lesly Ortega, sophomore in LAS, was unaware of the current and future productions of the solar farm. However, Ortega is relieved the University is taking eco-friendly action.

“We need as much action to protect our environment as possible,” Ortega said. “I think this decision from the University would not only help the environment but how the institution functions too.”

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