UW-Solar (Phase 2)

Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF:

Letter of Intent:

UW-Solar is an interdisciplinary student-led project. Our fifteen students, representing all substantive disciplines required to carry out the project, hail from five colleges, range from the undergraduate to doctoral level. We are asking for $85,000 to procure and install a pilot solar project on a Housing and Food Services building on West Campus. This supplements our initial request of $4,500 for our feasibility study, which explores solar feasibility throughout UW Campus sectioned into:

  • Siting and Infrastructure
  • Institutional Frameworks
  • Financing and Policy
  • Electrical Engineering
  • SCADA Systems
  • Education and Outreach

UW-Solar has two key objectives: (1) Conducting a feasibility study looking at the placement of solar panels on UW buildings and (2) Installing a solar panel array on a Housing and Food Service building. We plan to move forward in three phases: (1) Design and Implementation, (2) Financing; and, (3) Control and Monitoring. Our Education and Outreach plan runs through all three phases and contributes and facilitates learning for those inside and outside the group.  Each sub-section, listed earlier, leads in one or more phases of the project. Design and Implementation is led by Siting and Infrastructure, Institutional Frameworks, and Electrical Engineering; Financing by Institutional Frameworks and Financing and Policy; Control and Monitoring by Electrical Engineering and SCADA Systems.


We will be completing the Feasibility Study in the next month and will begin working towards procurement, with installation planned for the Summer of 2013.

Feasibility Study

The feasibility study is well underway. Each section hits the interests of the Campus Sustainability Fund: Environmental Impact; Student Leadership and Involvement; Education, Outreach, and Behavior Change; and, Feasibility, Accountability, and Sustainability. We describe the parameters of each section below.

Siting and Infrastructure

The outcomes for Siting and Infrastructure are to develop a location decision tree to use as an aid in siting solar arrays on campus in this and future projects; articulate a preferred option for a west campus HFS building (one of Elm, Alder, Poplar, Mercer, Lander) for the pilot project; and, develop a list of preferred equipment and vendors.

Institutional Frameworks

Regulatory Frameworks, as it pertains to design, construction, maintenance, will be managed alongside with Siting and Infrastructure. We have formed an Advisory Group of key stakeholders to identify regulations, approvals, and schedules, associated with implementing the project. Operations and maintenance responsibilities will be determined among with Housing and Food Services and Facilities, looking at identifying appropriate contact design and plan structure for the project’s long term operations and maintenance. The Advisory Group will meet monthly to review and approve the study, plans, and implementation. Furthermore, we are assessing the UW Power usage framework along with the Financing and Policy group.

Financing and Policy

Financing and Policy explores contract mechanisms and carbon equivalent comparisons looking at how the UW will be able to fund solar throughout the campus. A benefit cost analysis and budget will explore each business model developed through these contract mechanisms. The purpose of the benefit cost analysis is to examine potential contract cost savings; assess average timeline for return on investment; evaluate full cycle costs; and, explore potential for return of capital to CSF and HFS for additional installations. These questions will be answered through our research and meetings with HFS. We also meet with other professionals that help inform the options that we will present in our final recommendations.

Electrical Engineering

We are creating a reference to compare available solar panels by power output and price, and determine the necessary components to go along with the panels. These components will include inverters, transformers, fuse boxes, wiring, and any other equipment necessary to incorporate the panels into a building’s electrical system. We will produce a list of possible configurations of equipment to serve functions defined in our feasibility study. To accomplish this, we  are researching the electrical infrastructure of campus buildings and become more familiar with the connection between the building and the electrical grid, and the feasibility and price of installing backup power capabilities and making the system uninterruptible. This information will be organized so that it may be reused for outfitting other projects, though we will coordinate with our Advisory Group to select the preferred arrangement for the pilot project.

SCADA Systems

The UW-Solar Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) lab will perform two distinct functions. Firstly, the computerized system will allow remote physical control of the solar panel array. This will offer students and participants a chance to explore the factors that optimize solar systems for sustainability and power generation. Secondly, the system will collect data in real-time from sensors mounted on the solar array. This data can then be analyzed and used in research projects within a wide variety of disciplines. Additionally, the lab where SCADA will sit will function as a site for training future students and professionals in cyber-security, and particularly the security of Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) – a crucial factor in securing critical infrastructure against digital threats.

Education and Outreach

Our objectives are to develop educational objectives for an on-campus, for-credit seminar class; assess potential for online webinars and social media for off-campus and general public use; evaluate potential for continuing education programs/partnerships with professional organizations (American Institute of Architects, US Green Building Council, American Planning Association); develop parameters for use of SCADA lab by UW community; and, articulate a framework for continuing to build awareness of project within university and professional communities and the general public.

Thank you for the opportunity for UW-Solar to submit the LOI and make a substantial impact on the University of Washington’s Campus. We hope that through the feasibility study and the pilot solar panel project, the University of Washington will find opportunities in providing clean and renewable energy to the campus as a whole.

Primary Contact First & Last Name: Stefanie Young