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Energy Transition Lab

The University of Minnesota SUN Delegation

December 22, 2015Megan ButlerFeatured, UncategorizedComments Off on The University of Minnesota SUN Delegation

Sun Delegation Students Presenting Campus RoadmapThe SUN Delegation is a program of the Solar Endowment project which is funded by the DOE Sunshot Initiative and managed by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. The University partners other than the University of Minnesota are: Purdue, University of Illinois and the Missouri University of Science and Technology. At the University of Minnesota the project is being led by the Energy Transition Lab with the guidance of the Institute on the Environment.

The University of Minnesota SUN Delegation is made up of the 52 students from Duluth and Twin Cities campuses. SUN Delegation students include both undergraduate and graduate students interested in encouraging the University of Minnesota to invest in solar.

The objective of the SUN Delegation is to encourage the University of Minnesota to install, or subscribe to, via community solar gardens, at least 1MW of solar PV for one or more of the University’s five campus locations.

Reducing The University’s Carbon Footprint

The University of Minnesota has already made several commitments to reducing carbon emissions. In 2008 the U of M joined other higher education institutions with the signing of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) by former President Robert Bruininks. The (ACUPCC) is a collaborative formal acknowledgement of the destabilizing climate, and a commitment to combat the leading challenge of the 21st century by reducing emission levels through operational, societal, and educational changes. The goal is for the U of M to be carbon neutral by the year 2050. In addition, the University Of Minnesota President recently recommitted to the Climate Leadership Commitment with the following commitments:

  • Reduce carbon emissions 50% by the end of 2020 through the implementation of combined heat and power and extensive energy efficiency initiatives.
  • Achieve carbon neutrality across all of our campuses by 2050.
  • Prepare students, through our Grand Challenges Curriculum and other educational experiences, to understand the causes and impacts of climate change, to assess interventions to achieve climate neutrality and resilience, and to take action.
  • Marshal the University’s research and creative capacity to develop sustainable cities and resilient communities, and to provide secure food, water, and energy in a carbon constrained world and changing climate.

SUN Delegation Progress

SUN Delegation students volunteer their time and have been working together in small groups since September to:

  • Perform site assessments on UMN property to evaluate solar potential
  • Develop financial models for solar at UMN
  • Organize campus outreach efforts
  • Develop detailed LiDar mapping of the Twin Cities campus

This past semester SUN Delegation students have gotten off to a strong start! SUN Delegation students participated in both the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)  Student Summit and the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association (MNSEIA) Conference this past fall. In addition. the SUN Delegation has worked together to create a Campus PV Development Roadmap. Last November, SUN Delegation students traveled to the Natural Resources Research Laboratory (NREL) to present the Roadmap and learn more about the work being done by the lab.

The student teams have assessed over 26 potential sites to date. They will now begin scheduling professional technical assistance to conduct full site assessments on the sites that have not yet been eliminated for a variety of reasons. The finance team has determined that Community Solar is currently the best financial prospect for the University of Minnesota. The SUN Delegation’s current recommendation is to encourage the U of M to invest in 1MW-2.5 MW subscriptions of Community Solar either on campus or off campus due to its financial strength and ease of procurement. If the community solar off-campus option is pursued the Sun Delegation would also encourage a small (under 40kw) solar installation on-campus that could be used for visibility, experimentation and educational purposes. A site and financial structure decision matrix is currently being created to help determine the best prospects. By May 2016 the Delegation hopes to have at least two different options to present to U of M decision makers that can be used to create a request for proposals that will launch the investment process.

In addition, next semester Ellen Anderson and Professor Paul Imbertson have been approved to teach a three credit Grand Challenge Curriculum class called Renewable Energy Pathways that will be offered to Graduate students and Undergraduates on all of the U of MN campuses. It will use the Solar Endowment project as its hands-on, interdisciplinary action project this year. This course will allow any SUN delegates who can fit this class into their load to receive credit for participation.

To view the SUN Delegation’s Full Campus Road-map Click Here

Cover Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Windwärts Energie (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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