Solar carport initiative earns national attention

aerial photo of solar carports

November 19, 2018

The solar carport initiative called for installation of solar photovoltaics (PV) across five parking lots, covering 5,000 parking spaces on MSU’s campus. Construction started in March 2017 and was completed in December 2017. Since then, the project has received recognition around the country due to it being the largest carport solar array in North America.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) is efficient because it uses natural energy from the sun and does not rely on fossil fuels, making MSU a leader in sustainable energy.

The solar PV project is one component of a long-term strategic solution that will provide cost effective, reliable power to MSU for the foreseeable future. Eventually, all of campus will be supported by its own renewable energy production.

On Feb. 27, 2018 Wolfgang Bauer, associate vice president for administrative services, and one of MSU’s project leaders, accepted an award in Austin, Texas, from the Smart Energy Decisions Innovation Summit 2018. MSU was the co-recipient of the Onsite Renewable Energy award for solar carport project.

The Environmental Protection Agency has an annual College and University Green Power Challenge in which they encourage schools to use more green power. MSU is one of the eight Big Ten Conference schools that participates in this challenge. The Big Ten Conference has the highest combined green power use in the nation, with MSU being a large contributor. In the 2017-2018 challenge, MSU was recognized for its use of green power.

On Oct. 10, 2018 Amy Butler, the campus sustainability director, received the EPA’s Green Leadership Award on MSU’s behalf in Houston, Texas. The award recognizes programs, individuals and organizations that have a large impact on the advance of developing green power sources.

“MSU is proud to be recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency for our commitment to addressing renewable energy,” Butler said. “Our portfolio of renewable energy sources, combined with the university micro-grid, serves as a test bed for research in optimizing grid operations, as well as being a training and education platform to advance the integration of renewables for both business and institutions. Installing renewable systems on campus that can save the university money while also helping the environment is a highly visible demonstration of our priority to minimize our footprint.”

The project also received the 2018 Innovative Project Award from the U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan in November. The award recognizes exemplary projects in the region exhibiting features that above and beyond the status quo. “We are thrilled to honor the MSU solar project and highlight that the benefits of solar go far beyond economics” said Cheri Holman, executive director of U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan.

In presenting the award, U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan noted how the solar carport project blends innovation, hands-on learning and sensible money management. The excellent land-use design saves approximately 45 acres of precious agricultural land.

“MSU is internationally recognized as one of the top-100 universities in the world; as such, we have to lead in the field of renewable energies,” said Wolfgang Bauer, senior consultant in the Office of the Executive Vice President for Administrative Services and one of MSU’s project leaders. “With this project, we have shown that environmental sustainability and financial sustainability can be achieved at the same time. The green electricity that our new solar array produces is actually cheaper than fossil-fuel generated electricity that we could buy off the grid."