In September 2015, the Michigan State University Board of Trustees approved the development of five solar carport locations to be constructed on parking lots in various locations on the MSU campus. Project construction began on Spartan PV1 in early March, and it’s projected that the first array could begin producing power as early as December 2017. Inovateus Solar has played a major role in the effort, as we developed the project; are managing the engineering, procurement and construction for the solar installations; and share ownership of the power plant with our partner, Alterra Power.
These arrays will support MSU’s Energy Transition Plan, which aims to steer the university toward an endgame of 100% sustainability, relying solely on renewable energy through the pursuit of its top three goals to:
- Improve the physical environment.
- Invest in sustainable energy research and development.
- Become an educational leader in sustainable energy.
With the addition of these carport installations on campus, the university is well on its way to achieving this vision. Implementing solar on campus puts MSU in a sustainability leadership position by not only improving the environment but also investing in sustainable energy research, and containing the rising costs of energy and development.
Funding for the installations is being provided by investors who will be paid through a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with the university, in which the power produced by the carport systems will be acquired at a fixed rate. The total cost to MSU, including the investment to connect the solar PV arrays and the contracted price for electricity, will be less than what the university would have spent on its other forms of power generation.
The systems, capable of producing more than 15,000 megawatt-hours annually, will reduce the university’s operating costs over the course of the 25-year PPA contract by providing a stable cost of energy. The solar carport project will also act as a catalyst for additional renewable projects on the MSU campus, elsewhere in Michigan, and throughout the Midwest.
This project will have several other positive impacts, including boosting the local economy and supporting environmental sustainability. All of the labor will be locally sourced, with 90% of the installation and engineering workforce provided by Michigan-based Selge Construction and the other 10% of the workers coming from the neighboring state of Indiana. The solar carports advance the Energy Transition Plan by increasing the amount of renewable energy available to campus and reducing emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuels to produce power. The use of and clean fuel will also extend the life of the school’s existing plant equipment.
You can follow the project construction progress online with Inovateus’ live webcam feed and visit MSU’s construction project page for more information. MSU is doing its part in building a brilliant tomorrow, and it will be exciting to see how many more universities might follow its example.
By Heather Dixon, marketing coordinator, Inovateus Solar