CHAMPAIGN — The proposed solar farm would be the first major project completed under the University of Illinois Climate Action Plan, which pledged that 5 percent of campus energy needs would come from renewable sources by 2015, and 25 percent by 2025.
It would supply about 2 percent of campus energy needs, according to UI estimates. An earlier wind-turbine project in Urbana, which would have supplied 1 percent of energy needs, was scuttled by rising costs and opposition from neighbors.
To help cover the campus subsidy for the project, the UI's Student Sustainability Committee pledged just over $1 million of the cost, using revenue from a clean energy technology fee.
The money will be paid in installments over three years and function as "a very long-term interest-free loan," said Teresa Tousignant, former chairwoman of the committee's energy working group and now a building energy specialist for the UI. The university agreed to pay back the money once it recoups its initial investment, "somewhere between 10 and 20 years out," she said.
The committee had hoped to share in any profits from the venture, according to emails, but that wasn't allowed under the student fee structure, she said.
"That project represents a large percentage of the committee's annual budget," she said.
The UI has other solar projects in the works to help meet its 2015 renewable energy target:
— A solar thermal project at the Activities and Recreation Center, using the sun to heat the swimming pool.
— A geothermal project at Allerton Park Retreat and Conference Center.
— Solar panels on the Electrical and Computer Engineering building and the associated North Campus Parking Deck to produce electricity.
— Possible solar panels on the roof of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, though the impact on the acoustics of Great Hall is still being evaluated, said Morgan Johnston, sustainability coordinator for UI Facilities and Services.