- Associated Press - Sunday, June 19, 2016

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - As the state’s coal, oil and natural gas industries struggle through a downturn, the University of Wyoming is taking steps to expand and improve solar energy use on its Laramie campus.

The university spent nearly $132,000 to improve solar panels outside the Indoor Practice Facility that had fallen into disrepair, said Frosty Selmer, deputy director of utilities management.

“Some were in pretty sad shape,” Selmer told the Laramie Boomerang (https://bit.ly/1tzbvBQ ) of the panels originally built in 1995. “Some of the panels were broken. Every one of the inverters - which change the produced DC power into AC - was offline.”

The improvements, completed in 2015, mean newer, more efficient panels. The 210 panels in the array produce nearly 53 kilowatts of energy. The old panels started at 35 kilowatts and degraded through the years.

Selmer estimated that the panels will take 11 years to pay themselves off but that they are rated to last at least twice that long.

UW generates little solar energy but is looking into ways of adding more in the future.

“Right now, we’re planning our buildings to keep the south side of the roof clear,” Selmer said.

All panels in Laramie are pointed south to catch the most light.

The roof of the UW Energy Innovation Center also supports a solar array with many uses, including research, said Bruce Parkinson, director of the Center for Photoconversion and Catalysis.

“Right now, they’re in the grid, but we have a way to switch them out so we can generate hydrogen and take syngas, made from coal, and turn it into methanol,” he said.

There is enough space on the roof to install more panels, which Parkinson said could be used to study the differences between current and new models.

While the arrays are a good step in toward renewable energy, other institutions are far ahead of UW on installing solar power, said Scott Kane, co-founder of Creative Energies Solar.

“UW compares poorly to the University of Utah, which has a couple of thousands of kilowatts,” he said. “We have 50 here. They’ve set a pretty high bar for what UW can do.”


Information from: Laramie Boomerang, https://www.laramieboomerang.com

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