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ONU kicks off solar array project

Oct 4, 2016

Construction is beginning on a 2-megawatt solar array that will supply electricity to Ohio Northern University.

Under a 25-year power purchase agreement, ONU will purchase electricity directly from the array without needing to invest capital in the array’s construction and maintenance.

Using 18,000 thin-film panels from First Solar, the array will include a single-axis tracker that moves panels to follow the sun, allowing maximum solar harvest.

The solar field will generate about 10 percent of ONU’s annual electricity needs, reducing ONU’s carbon footprint by over 2,200 tons, equal to 210 average households.

GEM Energy of Walbridge, Ohio, is developer of the solar project and will design, construct, operate and maintain the ground-mounted solar array, located just southwest of campus. Construction will be complete at the end of 2016.

ONU will include the solar array in its renewable energy curriculum. The new program will be led by GEM Energy and will include pilot student teams.

“This project underscores the value and importance of renewable energy to ONU, and we are pleased to add this solar array to the university’s sustainability footprint,” ONU President Daniel DiBiasio said. “Not only will the university benefit from this endeavor, but our students, in particular will realize its value, especially those who are involved in co-op and other similar opportunities on this site. This puts the concept of high-impact learning in action.”

“Ohio Northern University has a tremendous commitment to sustainability, and we’re pleased to take ONU to the next level with its first solar array,” said GEM Energy President Bill Alexander.

ONU student Caleb Stuart, of Ada, is serving an internship for Rudolph Libbe Group on the solar project site as part of his double major in construction management and manufacturing management.

“I’m learning a lot about the management side of construction practices and how a project goes from start to finish,” Stuart said.

ONU’s current sustainable initiatives

  • Mathile Center for the Natural Sciences and The Inn at Ohio Northern University are equipped with high-efficiency water heaters, HVAC systems and lighting; low-flow fixtures; and dual or automatic flushing toilets.
  • ONU has introduced a fleet of hybrid and electric campus vehicles and two electric vehicle charging stations.
  • An analysis has targeted 10 ONU buildings for energy efficiency improvements.
  • In 2009, a geothermal heating and cooling system was installed to serve the Founders Complex and Affinity Village. In all, 30 percent of ONU’s housing features geothermal, earth-friendly technology.
  • In 2010, three 220-foot-tall wind turbines were installed and began generating 1.2 megawatts of power – 8-9 percent of ONU’s electricity needs.
  • In August 2015, ONU became a 100 percent tobacco-free campus.
  • ONU’s landfill waste has been cut in half, and in conjunction with Allied Waste Haulers, ONU is funding a recycling program at Ada Schools.
  • Since 2009, ONU has been recognized as a Tree Campus USA.
  • A grassy area surrounding the retention basin has been planted with native vegetation to provide a habitat for bees and eliminate the need for mowing.
  • The Affinity Gardens project has transformed the green space at ONU’s Affinity Village into a garden where student organizations grow organic produce for the Ada Food Pantry and the ReStore Community Center.