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U.Va. to install solar panels on Ruffner Hall, bookstore

Panels will bring new educational opportunities to University

The Office for Sustainability is partnering with Dominion Power to install solar panels on the roof of Ruffner Hall and the University Bookstore within the next few months.

The partnership is part of the Community Solar Power Program, which has completed similar solar energy projects across the state with Richmond-based Philip Morris USA, Capital One Headquarters in Central Virginia and the Virginia Union University. The panels will become a visible part of the University's sustainability efforts, said Andrea Trimble, director of the University Office for Sustainability.

“The photovoltaics planned for Ruffner and the Bookstore…will provide an exciting and visible opportunity for renewable energy education and awareness on Grounds,” she said.

The partnership with Dominion Power is part of an initiative by Gov. Terry McAuliffe to promote renewable energy throughout Virginia, and should bring panels to Grounds by Spring 2016.

The panels will also bring important new educational opportunities to the University community by providing experiential learning and research potential following installation, Trimble said. Data produced by the panels will be analyzed by students.

“Various educational tools, including signage, will accompany the project to give our community an opportunity to better understand technical details about renewable energy,” Trimble said.

The University had considered plans for a solar presence before the initiative was announced, said Sathish Anabathula, associate director of power and light in the Office for Sustainability.

“When we heard about this program from Dominion, it kind of made sense that we’d partner with Dominion to make this a reality,” Anabathula said.

The power from the panels will be sold back to Dominion Power and added to the Dominion grid. Construction will begin sometime this semester, said Rob Richardson, senior communications specialist for Dominion Power.

“We expect to begin construction on this project this fall — Dominion is excited to work with a great university to bring this solar project to Charlottesville,” Richardson said.

The University is going to gradually incorporate additional panels three to five years from now, Anabathula said.

Fourth-year Engineering student Tatiana Sokolova, an intern in the Office for Sustainability and member of the Energy Working Group, said she is excited the University is increasing its commitment to sustainability.

“In the global scheme of things, it’s going to help out the world and reduce pollution coming from fossil fuels by using alternative energy,” Sokolova said.