University of Northern Colorado cuts ribbon on 172-kW solar array

North Colorado university solar array

Students starting classes at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) this fall will be greeted by a greener, more sustainable campus thanks to a new solar photovoltaic (PV) array installed by McKinstry, a national construction and energy services company. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment funded the UNC solar PV array through its Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEP) Program.

Located on the roof of Parsons Hall near Jackson Field on UNC’s campus, the 172-kW solar PV array is expected to produce 4.7 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity and save the university an estimated $176,500 over the expected life of the system. McKinstry is also delivering an interactive dashboard later this fall to track solar PV array performance metrics.

“Student expectations for sustainability and renewable energy initiatives are higher than ever, making solar PV arrays like the one installed at UNC an important part of the campus experience,” said Leslie Larocque, vice president of McKinstry’s mountain regions. “McKinstry designed and delivered the UNC solar PV array to demonstrate how advanced energy systems and efficiency upgrades can generate both educational and sustainability benefits while also driving financial returns for universities.”

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The solar PV array is the latest partnership between UNC and McKinstry. Since 2016, McKinstry has performed $8.9 million of energy-saving projects and other upgrades on the UNC campus, helping the university save more than $500,000 in annual utility costs and reduce carbon emissions by 5,790 metric tons. Energy savings were bolstered through a three-year awareness campaign administered through McKinstry’s powerED program. The three-year powerED campaign engaged more than 700 faculty, staff and students.

“With the mission of moving the UNC campus towards a more sustainable culture, Student LEAF (Leadership for Environmental Action Fund) and McKinstry established an alliance to empower, educate and transform the community,” said UNC senior Environmental and Sustainability Studies major Joelle Jenkins, who is president of UNC’s Student LEAF. “Through student, faculty and staff participation, behavior-focused energy awareness and powerED — an operational efficiency program — were used to track overall engagement as well as reduce the campus’ carbon footprint.”

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