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Solar-Powered Learning: UMD to purchase solar energy from Minnesota Power

UMD is showing support of solar energy development and sustainability in northern Minnesota with a 100 kilowatt block purchase at the new Minnesota Power community solar garden in Wrenshall. University of Minnesota

UMD is showing support of solar energy development and sustainability in northern Minnesota with a 100 kilowatt block purchase at the new Minnesota Power community solar garden in Wrenshall. (A community solar garden is a solar array divided into blocks that customers subscribe to in order to meet part or all of their energy needs.)

Chancellor Lendley (Lynn) Black will make the announcement at Minnesota Power’s event celebrating the near completion of its one megawatt solar array at 424 County Road in Wrenshall on Thursday, November 2. Remarks are scheduled from 10 - 10:30 a.m. and will be followed by a walking tour of the area.

“By pursuing the Community Solar Garden contract, UMD is supporting solar in northern Minnesota,” says Chancellor Black. “This is something that our students value and want our campus to pursue as we make progress towards our sustainability goals.”

Black describes the purchase as a low-risk investment that pays back in electricity savings over time.

The Purchase

UMD’s 100 Kilowatt, $213,215 purchase is 10% of the Minnesota Power community solar garden.

Three Student Life auxiliary units are sharing the investment– 40% Dining Services, 40% Housing and Residence Life, and 20% Transportation and Parking Services. In return, the units receive annual discounts on their electricity bills from UMD’s Facilities Management equivalent to the cost savings Facilities Management receives from a reduced Minnesota Power charge.

Vice Chancellor for Student Life Lisa Erwin is excited to see the student-serving auxiliary units at the forefront of UMD’s efforts to purchase solar energy. “Dining Services, Housing and Residence Life, and Transportation and Parking Services are demonstrating again that they are willing and able to partner with students to achieve positive changes at UMD.”

Before heading into this partnership, Sustainability Director Mindy Granley and a student team, the SUN (Solar University Network) Delegation investigated the viability of solar locations at UMD, including a large-scale solar array on campus. Without much open land on campus, the team started to look at roof tops, however many roof tops at UMD require additional study and structural work to support solar arrays, factors that led to the decision to purchase from Minnesota Power.

Why Solar?

The move to purchase solar power comes after UMD pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020, with a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. The effort is part of the Second Nature Carbon Commitment, along with over 700 other higher education institutions.

Granley reports that UMD’s greenhouse gas emissions have remained nearly constant since 2007, despite three new buildings and renovations that expanded chilled-water use. “This is laudable; however, UMD is behind our 25% reduction goal,” she says. She believes that the solar power purchase, with replacement Renewable Energy Credits purchased, will boost UMD’s greenhouse gas reduction efforts. “Community solar allows UMD the benefits of a large-solar array without the construction and land use.”

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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