By Teresa Pavia | April 13, 2021
This spring, UAlbany began the process of installing a 1.6 megawatt photovoltaic solar power system atop the roofs of the Academic Podium and Life Science Research Buildings. The project is expected to be completed by the end of the summer.
The installation comes as part of the Energy Master Plan, an outline for the 10-year timeframe from 2013 to 2023 detailing the University’s efforts to reduce energy consumption. Written in response to Governor Cuomo’s 2012 “Build Smart NY” program to increase energy efficiency in New York State government-owned buildings, the Energy Master Plan emphasizes the importance of renewable energy as one of its core approaches to environmental sustainability on campus.
According to Indu Lnu, Energy Manager of the Office for Environmental Sustainability, “The goal is that in 4 years from now, in 2025, 100 percent of campus electricity will be renewable.”
New York State has already set a goal of operating on 100 percent clean, carbon-free electricity by 2040.
The Energy Master Plan states that the PV solar panel system will reduce source energy generated by burning gas or oil by approximately 2 percent.
Lnu said the bulk of the energy produced by the PV solar panels will be used to power the new Emerging Technology and Entrepreneurship Complex (ETEC), amounting to 60 percent of total energy production.
The University is financing the project through a Power Purchase Agreement, according to UAlbany Director of Media and Community Relations Jordan Carleo-Evangelist.
“Under this agreement, the developer builds, owns and operates the system,” said Carleo-Evangelist. “In exchange, we agree to purchase the renewable energy from the system instead of purchasing it from National Grid.”
The transition to relying on solar energy comes alongside continued efforts by the university to rely on geothermal energy, in which the energy for heating and cooling is derived from the Earth.
The 2012 construction of the Liberty Terrace Apartments involved the incorporation of a geothermal HVAC system in the basement, prompting UAlbany to receive their first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification.
Lnu said that there are many individual actions students can take to contribute to reducing the University’s carbon footprint.
“The electricity used for lighting rooms, charging computers, plugging in appliances, televisions, and gaming devices accounts for 20 percent of the energy used on campus,” Lnu explained. “Students should be cognisant of when they use this energy. When you’re not using them, remember to turn off or unplug.”
In the fight against climate change, Lnu said, “every little bit helps.”