Four months ago the University of Tulsa and the Public Service Company of Oklahoma announced a first-of-its-kind partnership. Today, power for the university’s Michael D. Case Tennis Center is being generated by nearly 1,000 solar panels on the facility’s roof.
The project is one of the largest, if not the largest, rooftop solar installations in Oklahoma, stakeholders say.
“The sun that is shining outside right now is helping to provide part of the energy that this building is using right now,” Stuart Solomon, PSO president and COO, said during a dedication ceremony Wednesday.
“It’s helping to power the lights, it’s helping to keep us comfortable in here, and solar power is simply the newest form of energy that we’re going to have on the PSO system. It’s 100 percent renewable, it’s 100 percent clean and it’s 100 percent part of our shared energy future.”
Under the terms of a contract that was signed this spring, PSO owns and maintains the 300-kilowatt solar panel array that has been installed on the tennis center’s roof. TU leases the panels from PSO and uses the electricity generated to supply power to the Case Center.
The project is a product of the increasing importance of sustainability to the university.
During her remarks at the ceremony, Susan Neal, vice president for public affairs, research and economic development at TU, said that in recent years the university has established a sustainability committee made up of campus constituencies and stakeholders.
The committee’s work has led to the expanded use of LED lighting and installed occupancy sensors, optimized climate control in campus buildings, CNG-powered shuttles and the use of solar-powered golf carts. Last year TU was recognized by the Princeton Review as the “greenest” college in Oklahoma.
“These initiatives have helped reduce our carbon footprint and have opened the door for research opportunities for students and faculty here at the university,” Neal said. “Today we are proud to partner with PSO on this exciting new chapter, not only for the university but for our entire state.”
To maximize energy production throughout the day, approximately half of the 936 polycrystalline photovoltaic panels on the center’s roof were installed facing east and the other half facing west. The energy they produce is roughly the equivalent of 75 residential rooftop solar installations.
Solomon said the project with TU is an important start for PSO’s involvement with solar power. By the year 2024 the utility plans to add over 200 megawatts of solar energy to the energy it provides, the equivalent of roughly 50,000 residential rooftop solar installations.
“This is a beginning for us as we move into solar energy, but it’s also a continuation of our commitment to renewable energy because today we already provide over 20 percent of our energy from renewable sources,” Solomon said.
Kylah McNabb, energy policy adviser to Oklahoma’s secretary of energy and environment, was at the ceremony held inside the tennis center to offer her congratulations.
“This partnership between PSO and the University of Tulsa is truly a lead-by-example-style project for the state,” McNabb said. “When we talk about solar, it really truly is the next piece in Oklahoma’s energy mix. We look forward to what it can do in the future and seeing the success of this project will bring additional projects across the state.”