The University of Akron is taking a bigger step into sustainable energy with what is believed to be the largest project of its kind in the state.
UA is contracting with Carbon Vision of Shaker Heights to install solar panels on the roof of the Louis and Freda Stile Athletic Field House and part of the roof of the Recreation and Wellness Center.
The university will buy the electricity the panels produce from the company and eventually will have the chance to purchase the system and get electricity for free.
“It will cost us zero dollars to build, and we will have the chance to buy it at the end of 20 years for $80,000,” said UA sustainability manager Ralph Morrone. “The students win, the university wins, the state wins.”
This is the second time UA has installed solar panels, which use light energy from the sun to generate electricity.
The university installed a small, 28-kilowatt system on the roof of the National Polymer Innovation Center two years ago. Morrone said it is providing about 5 percent of the power needed by the 42,750-square-foot building.
In the new, 650-kilowatt project, Carbon Vision will install more than an acre of solar panels on the field house and the nearby recreation center this spring.
UA will pay the company a total of about $65,000 for power for the two buildings each year.
Over 10 years, that means UA would pay about $650,000 to Carbon Vision.
If UA chooses to buy the system at the decade mark, it would pay Carbon Vision $480,000, bringing the total paid to $1.13 million.
That is slightly less than what it would have paid to Ohio Edison — $790,000 for electricity for the two buildings plus $345,000 to provide the capacity for the power.
The big savings come after that, Morrone said. If the university buys the system when it’s 10 years old, it would get 20 years of free electricity. If it buys the systems at 20 years, it would get 10 years of free electricity.
In all, the university would save $2.3 million over the total 30-year lifetime of the solar system, Morrone said.
UA isn’t alone in tackling energy conservation. Many universities have installed systems in the past couple of years to comply with Ohio House Bill 251, which requires public buildings to lower their energy consumption by 20 percent over the 2004 base by 2014.
Kent State installed solar panels on its university field house last summer.
They produce about one-third of the power needed at the Field House and Dix Stadium. Third Sun Solar from Athens, Ohio, installed and owns the system.
As for UA, it already has cut its energy consumption by 10 to 12 percent, and the new solar array will push it about 1 percent closer to the 20 percent mark, Morrone said.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at 330-996-3729 or firstname.lastname@example.org.