Illinois College brings the Solar Farm challenge on-line

The University of Illinois' Urbana-Champagne, Facilities & Services (F&S) has completed the construction of the Solar Park 2.0 with a total output of 12.3 MW DC. The planting phase of the farm's pollinator habitat begins this month.

The project is the second solar farm to be built at the university and is meeting the clean energy sustainability goals set in the university's Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP) nearly four years ahead of schedule. Clean energy generation will now provide approximately 12% of the school's annual electricity needs.

The 54 hectare site will serve as an important demonstration and research location for pollinator-friendly solar systems. The University of Illinois Solar Farm 2.0 project has exceeded the required 85 minimum points set out in the Illinois Pollinator Friendly Solar Site Act. With 134 points on the pollinator scorecard, including the adjacent landscape buffer, the solar system officially offers “exceptional living space”. The custom seed mix developed by Natural Resource Services, with more than 21 different plant types native to the region, will make the land between and around the panels more resilient and create a natural habitat for a wide variety of local and migratory birds and be beneficial to insects. In total, the site will contain more than 6.5 million flowering plants and native grasses.

Solar Farm 2.0 was developed by Sol Systems who built the farm with innovative features such as bifacial solar panels, uniaxial trackers, pollinator habitat, and waste-free construction practices. Through the company's development wing, Sol Customer Solutions, a joint venture between Sol Systems and Capital Dynamics, Capital Dynamics will own the project, with Sol Systems managing the asset for the 20-year contract term.

Sol Systems entered into a partnership with Inovateus Solar, which constructed the solar systems. Inovateus used low-waste construction practices that prevented up to 45 tons of material from ending up in landfills. In particular, Inovateus worked with F&S Waste Management to recycle nearly 94% of the construction packaging, plastics, wooden pallets and other waste from the project.

"In just four months, Solar Farm 2.0 has already become an integral part of the university's energy company," says Dr. Mohamed Attalla, Managing Director of F&S. “There are days when the array covers almost 30% of the university's electricity needs for that day. It was extraordinary to see how the renewable energies of this location have an immediate impact on learning and discovery across the campus. "

Since the array was powered on January 29, the plant has produced over 4,000 MWh. On May 1st, Solar Farm 2.0 delivered its largest output of 102 MWh in a single day. With the installation, the university is at the top of the list of clean energy generation locally, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. In combination with other solar systems on campus, the Urbana campus now generates around 27,000 MWh per year. The Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) of the University of Illinois ranks third among US universities for clean on-site power generation.

The university will purchase all of the power generated by the array under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) over a 20-year period at a fixed price. In addition to the long-term fixed rate that protects the UIUC against future utility pricing uncertainties, the PPA enables the university to move to solar with no upfront cost and offers $ 300,000 in savings in the first year alone.

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