LSC’s new photovoltaic solar array funded by students

An 80-kilowatt solar array recently installed on the rooftop of the Lory Student Center is Colorado State University’s first student-funded solar array. It is projected to generate 113,750 kilowatt hours of clean electricity in its first year, equal to that consumed by 13 average households annually.

The system’s installation was completed in December 2020, an effort spanning the course of four years. The project was primarily student-driven and is the result of collaboration among the Associated Students of Colorado State University, the Student Sustainability Center, the Lory Student Center and CSU Facilities Management.

The purchase of the $100,000 PV solar array was entirely funded by student fees allocated through ASCSU legislation in the spring of 2019.

“This is a tangible reflection of students’ commitment to sustainability, truly a reflection of their values,” said Mike Ellis, assistant vice president for student affairs and executive director of the LSC. “The LSC is fortunate to be the beneficiary of their commitment to clean energy.”

Lower than anticipated pricing and incentives from the City of Fort Collins Solar Rebate Program, along with $10,000 contributed by the LSC and $3,000 from Facilities Management to support design and installation costs, allowed for the purchase of a more sizable system. The array is four times larger than that initially imagined and stretches across the flat rooftop over the south wing of the LSC, directly above the ASCSU chambers.

Solar array on LSC roof
Solar array on the roof of Lory Student Center. Photo courtesy Drew Halpern, EnergyLink

Contributes to renewable energy goals

According to Stacey Baumgarn, campus energy coordinator with Facilities Management, the solar array is an investment that will pay back year after year and will contribute in a significant way to the University’s goal to have the campus powered by 100% renewable electricity by 2030.

“This is a different way of investing in the building that (students) can be really proud of. It literally pays back and saves future students money,” Baumgarn said. “In that way, the spirit and intent are really awesome.”

Baumgarn, who leads green walking tours on campus, had been floating the idea of crowdfunding a smaller solar array at the LSC since 2012. Two ASCSU senators – Rachael Dines and Daria Kramer – who joined one of Baumgarn’s tours in 2018 reached out to him with the idea of writing a bill to secure funding, he said.

“They were the ones who had to stand in front of the Senate and fight for this. I get excited about how they kept the focus,” Baumgarn said. “I’m proud of the students who hung in there.”

Dines and Kramer graduated in 2018 before the legislation they wrote was passed by ASCSU, yet a new generation of sustainability-minded students stepped up to see it through, including Hanna Johnson, Nevan Mandel and Gina McCrackin.

“Students here really have a passion for sustainability, and I don’t think we would be a leader in global campus sustainability if it weren’t for that dedication,” said Sophia Shepp, director of environmental affairs for ASCSU. “ASCSU is honored to have supported this project through its completion and I look forward to seeing what we accomplish next.”

Solar PV at CSU

The first solar PV array was installed at Colorado State University in 2009. It was an 18.9 kW system on the roof of the Engineering Building. Today, CSU has 21 PV arrays totaling over 6,800 kW. During 2021-2022, CSU will be adding 21 more arrays, which will bring the total to more than 12,300 kW of solar. Learn more about solar electricity at CSU.