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UAlbany unveils largest solar rooftop project in SUNY system

University at Albany and New York Power Authority officials unveiled the largest solar rooftop project in the SUNY system on Wednesday.

The nearly 5,000 solar panels cover the roofs of the life science research building and seven of the buildings that encircle the school’s academic podium. The panels will generate 2.3 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. UAlbany President Havidán Rodriguez says that’s equivalent to the energy consumed by about 315 homes.

Rodriguez says the university’s climate goals align with the state’s renewable energy goals set by a 2019 law – and completion of the solar roof project is a major milestone.

“The system will supply the equivalent of 60 percent of the estimated annual electricity used by all our electric net-zero energy-ready building, also known as ETEC (The Emerging Technology and Entrepreneurship Complex),” Rodriquez said. “This, in turn, will help us achieve LEED platinum certification for ETEC, which is the highest LEED rating for sustainable design. The total project expands the university's existing solar generation, which includes a 49.8 kilowatt system and the social sciences (building) roof installed in 2011 (and) a 27 kilowatt system on the campus center west expansion roof installed in 2017.”

The 2019 law created the Climate Action Council, charged with creating the state’s Climate Action Plan. The draft plan is currently in the public comment period and is to be finalized by the end of the year. The draft plan requires New York to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and no less than 85 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels.

NYPA Interim President and CEO Justin Driscoll says the Authority has more than two dozen similar projects in the works at sites like the Javits Center and JFK Airport in New York City.

“This project and projects like it are helping New York State make progress against its ambitious goals to generate 70 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030 and to transition to a carbon free power grid by 2040,” he said. “And Governor (Kathy) Hochul announced a new solar framework earlier this month that will help the state increase its target to install at least 10 gigawatts of distributed solar by 2030. To make our bold climate action goals a reality it is great to see UAlbany step up with an array for the record books. Our hope is that you are paving the way, or should I say arraying the roof, for many others to follow.”

Governor Kathy Hochul introduced legislation earlier this year to require all new building construction be zero-emissions by 2027, but it has not gained much traction in the Legislature, whose session ends June 2nd.

A group of the UAlbany project’s engineers took us to the roof of the four-floor earth science building to see the solar panels on a bright and very windy day.

Thousands of solar panels stretch out on top of most of the 12 buildings on the academic podium, providing energy to the uptown campus. NYPA’s Driscoll says they also serve another purpose.

“The centralized location of the solar array right here in the center of campus sends a loud and clear message to tomorrow's leaders, showing them that they can play a role in taking climate action,” Driscoll said.