The University of Michigan is planning to build on-campus solar installations with a capacity of 25 megawatts across the Dearborn, Flint and Ann Arbor campuses, including Michigan Medicine and Athletics.
U-M recently called for proposals from vendors well-positioned to build solar projects with 15 to 20 megawatts of capacity on the Ann Arbor campus, and one to five megawatts each at Dearborn and Flint.
The total amount of electricity that would be generated by the installations is estimated to equal the power consumed by approximately 3,000 homes annually.
Once operational, the solar installations will help U-M eliminate direct greenhouse gas emissions on campus by 2040. The university also is on pace to achieve net-zero emissions from purchased electricity by 2025.
“The climate emergency demands that we take innovative action now, and that we do so in ways that inspire people to get involved and challenge us to reach our goals,” President Santa J. Ono said. “This action marks the start of a process — toward renewable, sustainable power generated right here on campus — that the entire community can rally behind.”
The university and the city of Ann Arbor are collaborating in this effort and cross-promoting opportunities. Ann Arbor previously contracted for more than four megawatts of solar installations on municipal facilities and is now seeking an additional one to two megawatts through its own request for proposals.
“The city is delighted to collaborate with the University of Michigan to accelerate solar installation throughout our community,” Mayor Christopher Taylor said. “Both institutions have committed to accomplish a just transition to carbon neutrality, and the release of these coordinated calls for solar proposals is an important example of us working together to achieve our crucial climate goals.”
The U-M request for information encourages firms to respond to both U-M and city requests.
“We’re excited to catalyze an ambitious plan to install solar across our campuses, reducing our carbon footprint and creating visible symbols of U-M’s commitment throughout the community,” said Geoff Chatas, executive vice president and chief financial officer. “We’re also pleased to be working alongside the city of Ann Arbor toward shared goals.”
The Ann Arbor campus and Michigan Medicine account for more than 90% of the university’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
The RFI invites proposals from firms that can either build installations and then transfer them to the university, or build installations and then own and operate those facilities themselves. U-M is prioritizing potential solar projects that are built on large rooftops and on elevated structures over parking decks and parking lots.
The university also will prefer potential installations that are “behind the meter,” supplying electricity to buildings directly on-site rather than through the electrical grid. U-M will ensure that the selected vendor plans complement U-M’s campus master planning efforts.
U-M aims to have resulting solar facilities fully operational by the end of 2025.
Renewable power, energy conservation and emissions reduction
In addition to burgeoning on-campus solar efforts, U-M was recently recognized by the EPA Green Power Partnership for its renewable energy use. The organization ranked U-M eighth on its quarterly Top 30 College & University List and 89th on its National Top 100 List.
The university also is a member of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Climate Challenge, in which participating organizations set ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and share resources on their respective climate action efforts.
Last year, U-M approved maximum greenhouse gas emissions targets that cover 14 building types and all new construction and major renovation projects over $10 million.
The university also established a universitywide revolving fund supporting energy conservation projects across all campuses and auxiliary units. Although global supply chain challenges have prompted delays in implementation, the university has completed 19 LED lighting upgrade projects via the fund so far.
It is generally agreed that 1MW of solar PV requires around 5 to 10 acres of surface area. To achieve capacity of 25 MW will therefore require around 125-250 acres, which is roughly equivalent to 100-200 football fields. Good luck!