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New solar panel project aims to improve campus and community

artist rendering of solar panels on building roof

The University of Rochester was recently awarded a $1 million grant for a new solar panel project by The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority REV Campus Challenge. Professor of earth and environmental sciences and director of the University’s Center for Energy and the Environment (CEE), Carmala Garzione, is leading the initiative, which involves installing an integrated solar energy storage system on the roof of the Goergen Athletic Center. The State of New York has a new target to supply 50 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and eventually aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The University plans to contribute to this ambitious goal by promoting solar energy through this project.

The solar power generated by this system will offset energy for a new net-zero office building onto the south side of Hutchison Hall. The building is planned to break ground in the spring of 2019. The energy generated by the solar panels on the roof of the Goergen Athletic Center will feed energy into the University’s collective energy system, making the planned new building nearly net zero. According to Garzione, a net zero building has all of its energy supplied by renewable sources, such as wind or solar power. These solar panels are effective because their batteries store excess energy produced during times when the sun is out, and use this extra power during the evening or on a cloudy day.

The solar power initiative also includes plans for community outreach and engagement. There will be a center in the new building to educate people about the solar technology. The Rochester Museum and Science Center will display information about the solar project to educate the community about the potential of renewable energy. As Garzione explains, the display will show the data coming off the solar array and battery system to “enable people to understand the potential of integrating solar power and energy storage to smooth out the power supplied from solar.”


By Isabel Lieberman, Class of 2021


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