Rooftop Tour Shows Off the University’s New Solar Array

Solar panels cover a rooftop at UAlbany, with a residential tower in the background
The 4,783 PV panels gives UAlbany the largest rooftop solar array in the SUNY system. (Photo by Patrick Dodson)

ALBANY (May 3, 2022) — UAlbany hosted the press last week for the unveiling of the rooftop solar array that spans the Podium roof, a joint project with the New York Power Authority (NYPA). The 4,783 photovoltaic panels have the capacity to produce 1.9 megawatts of direct current, bringing long-term energy cost savings to the University. About 50 people took a tour of the largest rooftop solar array in the 64-campus SUNY system.

President Rodriguez speaks at a podium in front of spring blossoms
President Rodríguez speaks about the new rooftop solar array last week as Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy looks on.

“Bringing nearly 4,800 solar panels online is a critical step toward the University at Albany’s goal of net zero carbon emissions,” said President Havidán Rodríguez. “This project is an integral part of the University’s Climate Action Plan—and of our commitment to be a national model for campus sustainability.”

View a video of the press event.

The 4,783 panels, constructed on the roof of the Life Science Research building and seven roofs of the Academic Podium complex, will provide about 2.3 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy annually. In the first year, it will offset 607,556 pounds of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the electricity consumed annually by about 315 homes.

The new systems, which were developed with NYPA’s energy advisory services, will supply 60 percent of the estimated electricity used by ETEC, and help the building achieve LEED-Platinum certification, the highest LEED rating for sustainable design.

“NYPA is pleased to play a role in helping the University at Albany develop its largest solar installation, the largest in the SUNY system, allowing for the integration of more clean renewable energy resources,” NYPA Interim President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll said. “The impressive scale of this project shows how SUNY is taking the lead when it comes to transitioning to greener technologies and systems and is an example of its continued commitment to the environment and sustainable energy sources.”

The solar project supports UAlbany’s goal of reducing its carbon footprint 40 percent by 2030. It also aligns with SUNY’s Clean Energy Roadmap as well as New York’s Climate Act mandate that 70 percent of the state’s electricity be generated by renewables by 2030. The project received incentives through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s NY-Sun program.

The cost of the project was borne by the developer Capitol Hill Solar, LLC through a standard Solar Power Purchase Agreement, explained Todd Foreman, UAlbany’s vice president for finance and administration. “The University has agreed to pay the developer a fixed amount per kilowatt-hour generated by the solar PV system for the next 20 years. This fixed rate can be higher or lower than the grid-purchased electricity rate which fluctuates on an hourly basis. Since the system came online this January, the PPA rate has been lower than the grid purchased electric rate, thereby saving the University money.”

View a video of construction of the solar array.

Being net metered, the system allows UAlbany to significantly reduce its carbon footprint by decreasing its use of utility-delivered energy and purchasing renewable energy credits, helping the school meet its solar energy goals.

“We love that this project delivers renewable energy to UAlbany by making use of rooftop space that would otherwise be left idle,” said Jeff Denovan, senior vice president of construction at Greenbacker Renewable Energy Company, which acquired the project in 2021 and now owns, maintains and operates the system. “We look forward to future successful collaborations with NYPA, Solar Liberty, and the SUNY system to help drive the clean energy future in New York.”

“It is truly an honor for our team to build upon our partnership with UAlbany through the engineering, design and construction of the largest rooftop array within the SUNY system,” said Nathan T. Rizzo, vice president of Solar Liberty, which designed and constructed the project.

The new project expands on a 49.8-kilowatt system on the Social Sciences roof installed in 2011 and a 27-kilowatt system on the Campus Center West expansion roof installed in 2017.