New storage facility checks the solar and recycling boxes

New SOU storage facility is doubly green

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has completed a new storage facility at Raider Stadium that addresses sustainability on two fronts – it includes the university’s ninth array of solar panels, and the structure itself was created from recycled shipping containers.

The new facility, which will be used for storage of Athletic Department equipment and supplies, is SOU’s second net-positive building – the renewable energy it produces is greater than what it consumes. The first was SOU’s Student Recreation Storage Building, built in 2018 with solar installed in 2019.

“SOU is wholly committed to the pursuit of sustainability in both construction and day-to-day operations,” said Rebecca Walker, the university’s sustainability and recycling manager. “This project demonstrates that when we think differently and creatively, sustainability can make both financial and environmental sense.

The new storage facility’s solar panel installation was paid for by a fund that is fed in part by other energy savings projects on campus. The fund receives money from sources including energy savings incentives and credits from the university’s natural gas company, recycling receipts and other sustainability-related income sources.

The building itself – located behind the stadium’s east bleachers – is made from six recycled railroad shipping containers. The university repurposed three containers that we already on campus and purchased another three for $10,500 from Oregon Cargo Containers of Grants Pass.  The solar panels, installed by True South Solar of Ashland, will produce 49.68 kilowatts of electricity – enough to power about five typical homes.

“Athletics was in need of safe and adequate storage,” said SOU Athletic Director Matt Sayre. “What was designed for that purpose by the SOU Facilities Management and Planning Department and architect Matt Small – using rail boxcars and a plan to collect solar energy from the roof of that structure – is an asset Raiders can be proud of.”

The new project pushes SOU’s total solar energy generation capability to more than 430 kilowatts. The university has a total of seven other solar arrays on six buildings on the Ashland campus and one at the Higher Education Center in Medford.

Output from SOU’s solar facilities is typically fed back into the electrical grid and credited to SOU’s accounts, reducing the university’s utility bills.

SOU’s first solar installation was a 24-panel, 6-kilowatt array that was placed on Hannon Library in 2000 and it still generating electricity at 70 to 80 percent efficiency.