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UMD Adds Solar to Residence Apartments

Installation of solar panels on UMD's Oakland Apartments
May 17, 2018

UMD added 40-kilowatts to its solar power this month, after a group of students identified funding and advocated for the addition.

The new solar array will more than triple solar production at UMD.

The students and key staff responsible for the installation are available tomorrow, Thursday, May 17, at 2 p.m. near the site of the new solar– the Aspen Building of UMD’s Oakland Apartment Complex, just off Saint Marie Street near Bagley Nature Center, 621 Oakland Circle.

The Power Behind the Solar

UMD’s Solar University Network (SUN) Delegation is the student organization behind the effort. For three years, the team worked to find sites for future UMD solar installations,  gathered resources, and brought together contractors, community experts, and the University’s Facilities Management team.

Madelaine Sinclair, who graduated this month with a Finance and German Studies double major, got involved with the SUN Delegation to advance UMD’s commitment to reduce its carbon footprint. She says the biggest challenge to the Aspen Building installation was getting all the partners on board. “It was a great opportunity to have discussions about risks and benefits of solar with originally skeptical partners.” Sinclair says this is the first flat-mounted rooftop solar installation on campus.

Navigating these logistics, says Director of Sustainability Mindy Granley, was a great learning opportunity. “While the group was focused on expanding solar on campus, students also gained valuable experience and skills. SUN Delegation members have presented to key campus groups and gathered the resources needed to make this project a reality.”

Another skill the Bulldogs honed up on through this process, says Granley, is collaboration. “Students got a lot of technical assistance from some community folks, specifically Minnesota Power’s Paul Helstrom, who jumped in to help us understand the role of renewable energy regionally and gave us technical assistance about solar-PV systems. Also, Ecolibrium3’s Jodi Slick and her team helped us out along the way, too.”

Granley adds that the students’ passion is inspiring more solar projects at UMD, which has a goal of reducing its carbon footprint by 25% by 2020. UMD subscribed to 100 kilowatts of Minnesota Powers’ community solar garden and is adding a 50-kilowatt array on the new Heikkila Chemistry & Advanced Materials Science Building.

More About the Aspen Apartment Installation

The 40-kilowatt solar array installation is completely funded by the following sources:

  • $100,000 UMD Student Service Fee (Students vote to fund non-instructional programs and activities that supplement the academic curriculum)

  • $35,000 UMD Green Revolving Fund

  • $15,000 UMD Housing and Residence Life

The solar rebate will be used for any repairs and maintenance.

Granley says the array will produce more than 50,000 kilowatt hours each year, equal to about $3,500 in electricity savings for UMD.

The installation is expected to be completed by May 23, 2018.

2017-18 Members of the SUN Delegation

  • Madelaine Sinclair (Finance/German Studies)

  • Aidan Fawcett (Mechanical Engineering)

  • Bailee Coughlin (Mechanical Engineering)

  • Mellisa Ofori (undeclared - Biology)

  • Trevor Struve (Mechanical Engineering)

  • Chris Gass (Environment and Sustainability)

  • Ashley Murr (Civil Engineering)

  • Sophie Zupon (Environment and Sustainability)

  • Charles Stenstrom (Environment and Sustainability)

  • Max Schuessler (Fall 2017 University of Siegen, research exchange student)

  • David Herrera (Student Association, Sustainability Director)

More information about UMD’s solar projects