Solar Farms

Solar Farm 2.0
Solar Farm 2.0 layout

Construction of a new 54-acre, 12.1 megawatt (MWdc) Solar Farm has been approved by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees as the sole member of Prairieland Energy, Inc. Referred to as "Solar Farm 2.0," the new utility-scale array will be located north of Curtis Road, between First Street and Dunlap Avenue in Savoy. Solar Farm 2.0 will produce approximately 20,000 megawatt-hours per year (MWh/year), nearly tripling the university’s existing on-site renewable energy generation. Completion of this project will then grant the University of Illinois with the title of being the third-largest user of renewable power generated on-site for all higher education facilities in the entire country.

Project Inception

In April 2017, the Energy Sustainability Working Advisory Team (SWATeam) recommended that to increase our campus’ generation of solar power, either an extension should be built onto the original Solar Farm or additional solar panels be installed across campus rooftops. From there, the idea of Solar Farm 2.0 was born. In November of that same year, the Sustainability Council approved the concept of this new solar farm, and a site selection was completed during spring 2018. 

In the summer of 2018, after discussions with our neighbors in Savoy, the Chancellor’s Capital Review Committee approved the location, and a request for proposals was initiated. Different vendors from across the nation submitted proposals and various designs for this new solar farm, with nineteen submissions in total. By May of 2019, Sol Systems of Washington, D.C. was chosen to complete the project. A twenty-year contract was negotiated, and the overall project is on track to be completed by the end of 2020.

Project Overview

Sol Systems will be responsible for the design, construction, and maintenance for Solar Farm 2.0, and like Solar Farm 1.0, the Urbana campus will use all the generated power.  The $20.1M contract is anticipated to save the university $300,000 in the farm’s first year compared to electricity purchased from the wholesale MISO market. Prairieland Energy will buy the solar energy at a fixed rate of $45.99 per MWh, while the University of Illinois will receive the associated renewable energy certificates (RECs) and the right to claim the use of clean energy.

Pollinator Habitat

Other innovative features of Solar Farm 2.0 include the incorporation of a pollinator habitat located beneath the panels. Indigenous plants will be planted throughout the farm to welcome local and migratory birds and insects. Specifically targeted towards butterflies and bees, Solar Farm 2.0 will be a welcoming environment for wildlife, as well as being a demonstration site for meeting the requirements of the Pollinator Friendly Solar Site Act. A landscaped buffer will also be included in the final design of Solar Farm 2.0, creating visual screening of the solar panels along the south edge of the farm bordering Savoy.

Solar Farm 1.0 image banner
The University of Illinois Board of Trustees approved construction of a 20.8-acre solar farm in November 2012. The construction was delayed due to changes in State of Illinois procurement laws. Located along the south side of Windsor Road between First Street and the railroad tracks, Solar Farm 1.0 has been operational since December 11, 2015.

Phoenix Solar South Farms, LLC, was hired by the university in 2015 to design, build, and operate the Solar Farm at the Windsor Road site. The Solar Farm produces an approximately 7,200 megawatt-hours (MWh) annually or approximately 2% of the annual electrical demand for the Urbana campus making this site one of the largest university solar arrays in the country.

The university signed a 10-year power purchase agreement with Phoenix Solar to purchase all electricity produced by the Solar Farm and deliver it directly to the campus grid. In addition, the university will own/receive all current and future Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and emission credits associated with energy from the 4.68 megawatt (MWac) Solar Farm.

Research estimates the Solar Farm will generate up to 91% of its original output even in year 20 of the project.

Solar Farm Dashboard by AlsoEnergy will provide hourly information on the solar array’s renewable energy production and impact to campus as well as solar data for research and education.

Solar Farm Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

With the November sun reflecting off 18,867 solar panels, Executive Director of Facilities & Services Al Stratman welcomed President Timothy Killeen, Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson, Board of Trustees member Karen Hasara, and other project partners to celebrate the historic completion of the university’s first utility-scale solar array. [more]

Solar Farm Construction August – November 2015

Second aerial photo

Aerial Photo 2

by Malinda Carlisle | 01 Feb, 2016

Solar Farm Aerials

Second aerial photo

Aerial Photo 2

by Malinda Carlisle | 01 Feb, 2016

Solar Farm Panel Installation