Illinois Climate Action Plan's goals set back by University solar farm construction postponement

Construction of the University’s solar farm has been postponed, causing setbacks in the Illinois Climate Action Plan’s goals.

The solar farm is a major component of the plan, which was approved by the Board of Trustees in November 2012 and set for construction this fall. It was originally supposed to contribute 2 percent of University energy by 2015. Morgan Johnston, sustainability coordinator for Facilities and Services, said that goal would no longer be met.

The delay began when State Purchasing Officer Steve Rotello raised questions about the financial standing of Phoenix Solar, the contractor the University picked to build the farm.

“The University explained that the solar market had gone through a decline, and Phoenix is well positioned to survive that decline,” Johnston said. “At this point now we’re already seeing improvements in their financial situation, but we still do need to address the potential risk.”

The University is developing a risk management system for the project as a method of insurance in case anything did go wrong with the company, she added.

With the risk management plan, Johnston is hopeful the solar farms will be approved by Rotello this year, and construction will begin in Spring.

“This project will help us get to about 2 percent renewable electricity for the campus; the initial goal for the Climate Action Plan was 5 percent by 2015,” Johnston said. “We’re hopeful to at least have the 2 percent up and running by 2015 with the solar farm.”