The University of New Mexico is inching closer to having solar panels installed on the roof of the Student Union Building (SUB) now that state funding was designated for the project.
Talk of installing solar panels on the SUB has been brewing since Fall of 2017 when a resolution calling for the University to push towards 100% renewable energy sources was unanimously passed by the Associated Students of UNM Senate, the legislative body of undergraduate student government. The solar panel installation will be a collaborative project between ASUNM and Facilities Management, formally known as Project Plant Development.
The installation will be funded through capital outlay money previously granted at the request of former President Becka Myers, former Vice President Emily Wilks and the Governmental Affairs Executive Director, Libertie Green, during their 2018-19 administration.
According to newly-elected ASUNM President Adam Biederwolf, the project is in the works.
“Becka [Myers] and Emily [Wilks] during their administration, that was their project,” Biederwolf said. “They requested money to get and install the project, and now that they’re gone, we are basically finalizing the project.”
Although there are significant amounts of money appropriated for this project, concrete information about the timeline seems to be scarce. When Biederwolf and ASUNM Chief of Staff Jacob Silva attended a sub-committee to the University Capital Outlook Committee meeting in mid-June to discuss the project, they found that deadlines are not finalized.
“My Chief of Staff and I went to a meeting regarding this project, so obviously it’s started, but I really don’t know when it’s going to finish,” Biederwolf said.
Lisa Marbury, Executive Director of UNM Institutional Support Services, and Craig Barnard, Facilities Management Project and Construction Manager, were in attendance at the planning meeting.
“Monies were just received from the State, so we could begin the process," Marbury said.
According to Biederwolf, the installation will be executed in phases in order to cut costs. Before the installation can begin, weathering damage on the roof of the SUB must be repaired, which will cost the University roughly $1 million, apart from the funds for the solar panels.
“So the Student Union Building secured $200,000 for phase one,” Biederwolf said. “Once the first phase is done, we will implement partial solar panel supply to the SUB, and then we’re going to distribute the others to buildings like Zimmerman, or the new PAIS building that’s almost done. So not all of it is going to be on the Student Union Building because of the renovation.”
As for when the project will be completed, Marbury said the project is still in the planning phase. It will then go to design, vendor bidding and installation, which should take around nine to 12 months to complete.
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“They are still working on the project, it is not being forgotten about,” Green said. “They are just looking at new buildings because the SUB roof might need more work than originally thought.”
Looking forward, Biederwolf said his administration has other goals to pursue, though he recognizes the importance of green initiatives.
“I think renewable energy for any institution is beneficial, especially with buildings that use so much energy, like the Student Union Building and Zimmerman,” said Biederwolf. “But I think moving forward we’re gonna go in a different direction. I still think this could be the start of something huge with UNM in the next 10 years in terms of solar energy.”
Colin Peña and Alyssa Martinez are freelance reporters at the Daily Lobo and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @penyacolin and @amart4447.