F&S is pleased to support a recently awarded project in collaboration with the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), Argonne Lab, and UIUC faculty.  The Principle Investigator is Dr. Iris Cadlwell at UIC.

This project is examining the economic, ecological, and performance impacts of pollinator habitats co-located at five large-scale solar photovoltaic facilities (10 MW or larger) in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. The team will develop guidance and decision-making tools for solar-pollinator habitat projects, including a pollinator planting manual, cost-benefit calculator, native seed mix selection tool, and pollinator assessment tool. These tools will address critical stakeholder concerns, including project costs, return on investments, logistical needs, and site- or project-specific constraints.

Solar Farms

The 2015 iCAP, chapter 3, objective 2 is "Expand on-campus solar energy production. By FY20, produce at least 12,500 MWh/year, and by FY25,at least 25,000 MWh/year, from solar installations on campus property.

Solar Farm 1.0

In 2012, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees approved the construction of a 20.8-acre solar farm located along the south side of Windsor Road between First Street and the railroad tracks. Initial construction was delayed due to changes in the State of Illinois procurement laws. Phoenix Solar South Farms LLC was hired by University in 2015 to design, build, and operate a 20.8-acre Solar Farm at the Windsor Road site. The Solar Farm produces approximately 7.86 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually or 2% of the Urbana campus's FY15 electrical demand, making this site one of the country's largest university solar arrays. The University signed a 10-year power purchase agreement with Phoenix Solar to purchase all Solar Farm electricity and deliver it directly to the campus grid. The University also own/receive all current and future Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and emission credits associated with energy from the 4.68 megawatts(MW) Solar Farm. Research estimates the Solar Farm will generate up to 91% of its original output even in year 20 of the project.

Solar Farm 2.0

In April 2017, the Energy Sustainability Working Advisory Team (SWATeam) recommended that to increase our campus' generation of solar power, either an extension should be built onto the original Solar Farm or additional solar panels be installed across campus rooftops. From there, the idea of Solar Farm 2.0 was born. In November of that same year, the Sustainability Council approved this new solar farm concept, and a site selection was completed during spring 2018. In the summer of 2018, after discussions with our neighbors in Savoy, the Chancellor's Capital Review Committee approved the location, and a request for proposals was initiated. Different vendors from across the nation submitted proposals and various designs for this new solar farm, with nineteen submissions in total. By May of 2019, Sol Systems of Washington, D.C., was chosen to complete the project. A twenty-year contract was negotiated, and the overall project is on track to be completed by the end of 2020. Sol Systems will be responsible for the design, construction, and maintenance for Solar Farm 2.0, and like Solar Farm 1.0, the Urbana campus will use all the generated power. The $20.1M contract is anticipated to save the university $300,000 in the farm's first year compared to electricity purchased from the wholesale MISO market. Prairieland Energy will buy solar energy at a fixed rate of $45.99 per MWh. At the same time, the University of Illinois will receive the associated renewable energy certificates (RECs) and the right to claim the use of clean energy. 

Other innovative features of Solar Farm 2.0 include the incorporation of a pollinator habitat located beneath the panels. Indigenous plants will be planted throughout the farm to welcome local and migratory birds and insects. Targeted explicitly towards butterflies and bees, Solar Farm 2.0 will be a welcoming environment for wildlife and a demonstration site for meeting the Pollinator Friendly Solar Site Act's requirements. A landscaped buffer will also be included in the final design of Solar Farm 2.0, creating visual screening of the solar panels along the south edge of the farm bordering Savoy.