University of Illinois explores expanding solar farm
CHAMPAIGN — The University of Illinois is considering an expansion of its solar farm.
The University of Illinois South Farms has been idle since October when on-site electrical system issues occurred, The (Champaign) News-Gazette reported. But it’s scheduled to resume operations soon.
University officials have discussed expanding the 21-acre solar farm to help meet renewable-energy goals outlined in the Illinois Climate Action Plan, known as iCAP.
Under the plan, the campus is expected to be “carbon neutral” by 2050, emitting no net carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
Professor Evan DeLucia is a member of the campus Sustainability Council. She says the expansion is just one idea under consideration.
The university signed a 10-year power purchase agreement in 2015 with Phoenix Solar LLC, which built and operates the farm. In 2016, the university paid almost $1.4 million to Phoenix Solar for the farm, when it produced almost 7,300 megawatt hours of electricity. The farm was on track to meet or exceed that level in 2017 until it shut down.
Campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said the university isn’t paying Phoenix Solar while the farm is offline and hasn’t paid the cost of repairs.
The university is aiming to eventually produce 25,000 megawatt hours of solar power under iCAP.
“We are in the process of evaluating how to meet our goal,” Kaler said.
The university’s Sustainability Council is examining pricing for an expansion. A second solar farm would likely be close to campus “because of the expense of running the transmission lines,” DeLucia said.