The University of Illinois is preparing to sign a power purchase agreement worth $20.1 million for a 10-megawatt solar farm near the Urbana campus, the News-Gazette reported this week.
“Under the 20-year contract, Sol Systems LLC would design, build and operate the 10-megawatt solar array and sell the energy to the campus at a fixed rate each year,” Julie Wurth wrote in the News-Gazette. “The 55-acre solar farm is planned on a former UI agricultural research plot along the north side of Curtis Road.”
If the deal goes through, this would become the university’s second solar farm. The University of Illinois has an existing facility in the village of Savoy called Solar Farm 1.0 that became operational in late 2015 and currently provides about 2% of the annual electrical demand for the Urbana campus.
Last December several university professors argued against using the proposed site for a second solar farm, saying that it should be preserved for agricultural work or research instead, according to the News-Gazette. The newspaper reported that the university issued a request for proposals for a Solar Farm 2.0 project developer in the spring.
Signed in 2015, the university’s Climate Action Plan, known as iCAP for short, calls for 25,000 megawatt-hours per year of solar generation on campus by the year fiscal year 2025. “iCAP’s ultimate goal is for the campus to be ‘carbon neutral’ by 2050,” Wurth wrote in February.
UI Facilities and Services director Mohamed Attalla told the outlet that the existing solar farm generates about 7,000 megawatt hours annually, and Solar Farm 2.0 would add at least 18,000 megawatt hours.
University officials told Wurth that the proposal from Sol Systems was $5.8 million less than the next lowest bid.
“Under the proposed agreement, the UI will pay about $46 per megawatt hour for electricity produced by the solar farm,” she wrote this week. “That’s a $200,000 to $300,000 annual savings over what the UI paid in fiscal 2018 for electricity purchased off the grid — about $63 per megawatt hour.”
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