The University of Utah is the first university in the country to sponsor a community solar program. The program offers U community members the opportunity to purchase discounted rooftop solar panels and installation for their homes.
April 22, 2014 – The University of Utah is the first university in the country to sponsor a community solar program. The program offers U community members the opportunity to purchase discounted rooftop solar panels and installation for their homes.
"It's a Groupon model for solar panels," explained Kate Bowman of Utah Clean Energy, a nonprofit organization that ran two previous community solar programs in Utah and is now helping the U administer its program.
Solar installers are able to offer a discount because these programs tend to generate more customers in close proximity during a specific timeframe. Two solar installers, Creative Energies and Gardner Engineering, will provide about a 25 percent discount to those who enroll through the program.
"We are pleased to offer members of the U community real benefits from our campus sustainability efforts and in the process make an even bigger positive environmental impact," said University of Utah President David W. Pershing. "Through this unique program, we will truly make a difference locally."
Participants in the U Community Solar program will have the opportunity to give the renewable energy credits produced by their solar panels to the university for the lifetime of the system. Renewable energy credits are typically purchased by organizations as a way to support renewable energy. This local offset program will help the university achieve its carbon reduction goals.
The limited-time U Community Solar program launched April 22 and runs through Oct. 1, 2014. Members of the U community, including faculty, staff, students, alumni and campus guests in Salt Lake, Summit and Davis counties are eligible to participate.
Homeowners who participate in the program will work directly with one of the two selected installers to get a bid based on the size, location and energy use of their home. Homeowners will contract directly with the installers, and the panels will be installed on a first-come, first-served basis. Participants must sign a contract with their installer before Oct. 1 to guarantee the group discount.
"This program makes it easier and more affordable for people to power their homes with solar energy," said Myron Willson, director of the U's Sustainability Resource Center. "Both installers went through a rigorous selection process, considering quality and price — a process that some homeowners may not have the time or expertise to conduct."
For more than 10 years, U students have paid a dollar each semester to reduce the impact of fossil fuel use by the university and to support local investments in renewable energy. Much of the money has been used to purchase renewable energy credits on the open market, and now a portion of those funds are being used for the one-time organization and promotion of the U Community Solar project.
"We're happy to use the funds for this because it brings our impact closer to home," said Sam Ortiz, president of the Associated Students of the University of Utah. "Advancing sustainability and clean energy use is a top concern among students."
For more information about the U Community Solar program, visit http://www.mycommunitysolar.org/ucommunitysolar/.
About Sustainability at the University of Utah
The University of Utah is committed to integrating sustainability across all areas of the institution, including academics, operations and administration. To further its sustainability mission, the university recently created a new chief sustainability officer position that reports directly to the senior vice president for Academic Affairs. Additionally, the university is collocating sustainability efforts and research under a new Sustainability Office to better streamline initiatives and collaboration across campus. To learn more, visit www.sustainability.utah.edu.