The proposed 60 to 100 kilowatt system consists of solar panels that will be raised above a parking lot, allowing for the area under the panels to remain a fully functional lot for parking. The parking lot next to the UMass Amherst Visitor’s Center is the desired location for the array. The Visitor’s Center uses approximately 30 kilowatts of energy per hour and the solar canopy would generate at least double the amount of electricity needed to run the building, essentially taking it off the grid while feeding the rest of the generated electricity back into the grid.
The placement of the canopy will assist in showcasing UMass Amherst’s commitment to sustainability, as it is the starting location of all University tours for perspective students and their families. Adding to the allure of the project, students will be able to view the electricity generated by the panels through an interactive energy dashboard that will be located inside the Visitor’s Center.
The 60 kilowatt system will save the University approximately $70,000 in electricity each year while promoting sustainability to perspective and future students. Previously, UMass Amherst housed a five kilowatt solar array on the Knowles engineering building, but the hidden panels were destroyed after a severe storm. Instead of replacing the structure, the University opted to investigate the proposed larger, and more visible, solar carport.