solar arrays installed at The Farm at SOU

Solar arrays pop up at The Farm at SOU

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Farm at SOU is sprouting solar arrays this month, with two new and innovative projects taking shape over the past week. The first, mounted on The Farm’s storage building, is student-funded and the second, installed atop 20-foot poles, was financed by a private investor.

“It is a coincidence that these projects happened within a few days of each other, but it is also indicative of our commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship,” said Rebecca Walker, SOU’s sustainability and recycling manager. “These are exciting projects that were both innovatively funded and will generate renewable electricity for the university and our community, and provide educational and other benefits to our students.”

The storage building project, installed early last week by Ashland-based True South Solar has been funded by a Renewable Energy Development Grant from Oregon Department of Energy and the SOU Green Fund. The SOU Green Fund comes from a “Green Tag” fee of $13 per student each term and is overseen by the Environmental Affairs Committee of the Associated Students of SOU. The student Green Fund will receive annual payments based on the generation of the electricity from the storage building, through a power purchase agreement with the university. The Green Fund allows the university’s student government to invest in sustainability projects at SOU, such as renewable energy generation on campus and offsetting SOU’s water usage.

That new solar array will produce 15.48 kilowatts of electricity.

The second array, installed last Friday by Ashland’s STracker Solar, is a community project that employs dual-axis tracking technology – the solar panels follow the path of the sun throughout the day, maximizing efficiency and output. The three elevated panels are adjacent to three existing panels on the neighboring ScienceWorks property – all of them owned by Abbott’s Development.

Abbott’s is owned by Brad Roupp of Ashland, and operates the Abbott’s Cottages vacation rentals. Abbott’s is considered a tax equity investor, leasing property for the new array from SOU and using the city of Ashland’s virtual net metering system to allocate the power it generates to the company’s rental properties. SOU receives an annual lease payment, all renewable energy credits related to the project and the opportunity to use the solar facility for educational and research purposes.

The six solar trackers at Abbott’s installations at The Farm and ScienceWorks will produce a combined 160 megawatt hours of electricity per year.

“The Farm at SOU is a center for sustainability,” said Vincent Smith, director of The Farm at SOU and of the university’s Division of Business, Communication and the Environment.

“These two new projects will not only offset all of our energy use, but will provide opportunities for student and faculty research,” Smith said.

SOU has a total of eight other solar arrays on seven 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.