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A Bold Step Toward Solar

The University of Dayton will install 4,026 solar panels with a capacity of 1.26 megawatts of power that will provide approximately 2 percent of campuswide power consumption and offset carbon emissions by about 1 percent annually.

The solar arrays installed on the front lawn of Daniel J. Curran Place at 1700 S. Patterson Blvd. and the roof of Fitz Hall will provide nearly 10 percent of the power consumption of both buildings. The arrays also will power electric car charging stations at both locations.

The University hopes to have the arrays online by early 2019.

Offsetting campus carbon emissions by 1 percent in a year is equal to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 278 cars, or the annual carbon dioxide emissions from 1.4 million pounds of burned coal, 140 homes, or conserving 3,010 barrels of oil. See the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency graphic above.

During the 30-year lifespan of the arrays, the University anticipates it will save about $300,000 and prevent 39,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being added to the atmosphere.

"This project fits our Catholic mission and our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation, and is another step toward fulfilling our aspiration to be a leader in sustainability education, research, and operations," University of Dayton President Eric F. Spina said.

As part of the long-term power purchase agreement, Cincinnati-based Melink Corporation will engineer and construct the arrays, and sell the electricity to the University. The University has an option to purchase the arrays after eight years.

“We are super-excited to partner with the University of Dayton," Melink CEO Steve Melink said. “This is an opportunity to educate and inspire not only the students and faculty but the general public throughout Ohio and the Midwest. Sustainability and clean energy are the way of the future, and UD has just put a big stake in the ground as a leader.”  

The arrays at Curran Place and Fitz Hall are in addition to smaller Melink solar arrays already at RecPlex and Solar Integrated Resources arrays on five student residences. The Adele Center, a student residential facility currently under construction at 301 Lowes St., also will have a 53.4 kilowatt Melink solar array when it opens next year.

Several University units collaborated on the project, including finance and administrative services, advancement, facilities management and planning, the Hanley Sustainability Institute, the School of Engineering renewable and clean energy graduate program, and the Research Institute.

The Hanley Sustainability Institute, the University of Dayton Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service-Learning (ETHOS), and students, faculty and researchers will participate in the installation of the modules, conduct sustainability research and incorporate them into curriculum and other programming.

"One attractive feature of working with Melink is that Melink involves our students in this project from the very beginning and on an ongoing basis," said Bob Brecha, director of research in the University of Dayton Hanley Sustainability Institute. "Our campus has quite intentionally become a giant sustainability lab where students from all majors can have a hand in many of our efforts to become a greener campus."

Many of those efforts have resulted in $500,000 in Dayton Power and Light rebates (see the related links). The University has used those rebates to seed a Green Revolving Fund launched in 2016 to support energy-saving improvements on campus, sustainability-related research and hands-on learning opportunities for students. Savings and additional rebates from those improvements are reinvested in the Green Revolving Fund to fund even more sustainability initiatives on campus.

"Our improvements in this area certainly affect the bottom line, but the true bottom line is how the improvements affect our students," said Steve Kendig, University of Dayton executive director of energy utilization and environmental sustainability. "We ultimately want 'sustainability' to be, not 'a bunch of initiatives' but a lifestyle, one that provides our students examples of caring for the common good."

As part of its commitment to sustainability, UD became a fair trade university and was the first Catholic university in the nation to divest from fossil fuels. The University is a member of the U.N. Global Compact, the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Second Nature's Carbon Commitment, "We're Still In," and has committed to renovating or building facilities on campus with at least silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification or an equivalent status in mind.

The U.N. Global Compact, the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative, asks businesses and organizations to build cultures of integrity and meet fundamental responsibilities in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. The Global Catholic Climate Movement is an international coalition of Catholic organizations and individuals that, in union with and in support of the pope and bishops, seeks to raise a Catholic voice in global climate change discussions. The Second Nature's Carbon Commitment commits the University to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. "We're Still In" is a declaration by community leaders nationwide to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.

The University's sustainability education initiatives received a boost in 2014 with a $12.5 million gift from the George and Amanda Hanley Foundation. The largest single gift in University history also established the Hanley Sustainability Institute.


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