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Building at UNR gets solar panels

RENO — The University of Nevada, Reno, emphasizing environmentally friendly technology, has dedicated new solar panels to provide energy to the new Joe Crowley Student Union.

The project dedicated on Monday generates 28 kilowatts of power, which will provide 10 percent to 12 percent of the energy for the 165,000-square-foot building and save the university $5,000 to $7,000 in electricity costs per year.

The student union was constructed with a “green” design in mind, but the university couldn’t afford to install the solar panels.

The installation was made possible by partnering with Black Rock Solar, a nonprofit organization that looks for projects with public benefit and can “raise the profile” of solar energy in Nevada, company executive director Tom Price said.

Black Rock Solar paid for and installed the solar panels, while UNR supplied $49,000 for the project and NV Energy rebated most of the cost, $141,000, through its Solar Generations program.

Price said Nevada has one of the most progressive rebates for solar power in the country and the state has the potential to be “the nation’s power plant.”

“There’s enough energy falling on Washoe County to run the country,” he said. “That’s not even counting wind or geothermal. The problem is that people don’t understand how solar works.”

Price said one of the benefits of solar energy is that it’s low maintenance.

“You don’t need to do anything once you’ve done it,” he said.

The amount of energy produced by the panels each year will remain constant, but the value will go up as the cost of electricity increases, said John Sagebiel, environmental affairs manager for UNR.

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