Colorado State University, Namaste Solar, Fort Collins Utilities team up to add solar panels to campus buildings

The rooftops of the Colorado State University Student Recreation Center, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Durrell Center and Braiden, Parmalee and Corbett residence halls will soon be adorned with solar panels that power the university and Fort Collins homes and businesses, thanks to a new partnership with the City of Fort Collins and Namaste Solar.

The panels are part of a city program that purchases electricity from solar systems installed on business rooftops across the city through a 20-year contract. At Colorado State, panels will provide 1,100 kilowatts of power to Fort Collins, enough to produce about 1.65 million kilowatt hours a year, powering about 180 average homes.

“This is a great opportunity for the university to expand its existing solar power supply without fronting the costs,” said Carol Dollard, the university’s energy engineer. “This expands the total amount of solar systems on our campuses to more than 6,600 kilowatts. With Colorado’s generous sunshine, these solar panels can power nearly 1,200 homes.”

Panels will be added to Braiden Hall this fall, and the remainder of the panels will be added in early 2015.

The city utility pilot project is called the Solar Power Purchase program, or SP3. The solar projects on campus are being developed by Namaste Solar, a Boulder-based company, and City of Fort Collins Utilities will purchase the electricity generated by the panels. The university will receive lease payments for the panels from a third partner, yet to be determined.

Energy from the solar systems in the program goes directly into the Fort Collins Utilities electric grid, powering local homes and businesses, including buildings on the CSU campus. The city’s SP3 program also includes panels installed on other buildings in Fort Collins, and is expected to meet about 25 percent of the city’s renewable goal for 2015. The project also helps meet local climate action goals and state renewable energy standard commitments.

In March, the university was again named a top school in the country for its sustainability efforts, having achieved the highest score ever reported to Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System, called STARS. STARS is a national survey that measures sustainability efforts at universities and colleges across the country.

Since 2011, CSU has:

  • Signed an agreement with the City of Fort Collins Utilities to divert more than 200,000 pounds of food waste annually to an anaerobic digester at the Drake Water Reclamation Facility as part of a waste-to-clean-energy program.
  • Purchased an in-vessel composter to process the 100,000 pounds of food waste not diverted to the city. The compost is used in campus landscaping projects.
  • Added a minor in global environmental sustainability through its School of Global Environmental Sustainability.
  • Completed 16 LEED-certified buildings, renovations or expansions. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a program that provides third-party verification for green buildings.

Also in early 2011, the university and partner Fotowatio Renewable Ventures completed one of the largest solar plants at a U.S. university at the time. The 5.3-megawatt solar plant provides one-third of electricity needs on the university’s Foothills Campus, about three miles west of the main campus.