Solar Panel Plan for Student Union Moves Forward

Jay Kapp covers the ASUC. E-mail him at [email protected].

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Z?,e??tin Luther King, Jr. Student Union may be the first building on campus to use solar panels as early as next semester.

The long-range plan to install solar panels on the roof of the building has finished its initial stages as organizers recently completed an analysis of the financial viability of the project, which is estimated to cost over $1 million.

Campus projects that exceed $1 million must pass through seven phases prior to approval from Capital Projects, a university committee responsible for construction and development on campus. With the financial analysis completed, the solar panel project is expected to begin moving through the seven phases.

The total cost for installing solar panels in the student union building, which is owned and operated by the ASUC Auxiliary, is approximately $1,059,000. The state Legislature will cover $489,000 through a rebate program established in last year's state budget.

Last year's ASUC Senate allotted $50,000 for the project in the spring budget. Remaining costs will be covered by the Graduate Assembly and the ASUC Auxiliary, which will own the panels, said Robb Moss, a former graduate assembly member, who has been working on the project for two years.

Chancellor Robert Berdahl had expressed support for the project and said he would contribute funds to the project, Moss said. But the state budget deficit may prevent that from happening, he added.

ASUC Auxiliary Director Tom Cordi said within 10 to 12 years the money saved by the solar panels will cover the project's total anticipated cost.

In the (next phases of the project in the) coming months, Capital Projects will develop a plan, timeline, staff and budget.

The architect, who will be chosen during the second phase, will maintain the appearance of the building, since it is such a historic site, Cordi said.

The last phases of the project will include design development as well as a bid for the project and construction.

"My guess is that construction could begin next spring, assuming we can overcome the financial obstacles," Cordi said.

Solar panels produce less carbon dioxide, offer sustainability and are more cost efficient than traditional lighting.

The cost-efficiency of the panels is determined by dividing the overall cost by the projected 30-year life span of the panels. This establishes the rate at approximately $0.13 per kilowatt-hour.

PG&E currently charges the ASUC Auxiliary $0.15 per kilowatt-hour, but this price varies, Moss said.

"Solar (power) is a shelter from the fluctuations of the market price of electricity," Moss said.

The solar panels would provide 15 percent of the energy needed in the student union.

Members of the committee planning the solar panel construction said they also want better usage of energy in the building.

"It makes no sense to spend money on renewable energy without first addressing usage," Moss said.

Proponents of the solar panel project said they hope this will set a precedent for other buildings on campus, Graduate Assembly President Jessica Quindel said.

"We want to make MLK an example of how easy and efficient it is to go solar," Quindel said.

If the solar panel project is successful, Moss said solar panels would probably be used on other ASUC Auxiliary-owned buildings.

Solar panels placed on Eshleman Hall could produce 75 percent of the electricity needed, Moss said.


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