University of Houston and Green Mountain Energy Company “Flip the Switch” for University’s First Solar Array


The University of Houston is now partially powered by the sun, thanks to Green Mountain Energy Company and its customers. Green Mountain, Texas’ first competitive retail electric provider to offer cleaner energy, donated $140,000 to the University through the Green Mountain Energy Sun Club to fund UH’s first solar array system.

Green Mountain Energy® Solar at University of Houston
The new 20.24 kilowatt (kW) DC solar panel system is mounted on the roof of the University’s Central Utility Plant, which is located on the northeast side of campus. It will help reduce the University of Houston’s carbon footprint and energy costs and serve to educate students about the benefits of solar energy.

Green Mountain Vice President of Sales, Mark Lamping and the company’s Super Earth Mascot joined UH Program Coordinator for Sustainability, Leah Wolfthal; Steve Stelzer, City of Houston’s Program Director of Green Building Resource Center; and UH’s Recycle Man to officially “flip the switch” of the solar array during a ceremonial dedication at UH. The event coincided with the University’s Green UH Day, a campus-wide event to celebrate and raise awareness about green initiatives and programs at the University.

“We are thrilled that UH, a highly regarded educational institution in Houston is the recipient of this solar array from the Green Mountain Energy Sun Club,” said Lamping. “Green Mountain has been serving customers throughout Houston and the surrounding communities since 2002. Donating a solar system like this one helps us give back to the communities where our customers live, work, shop and play, while supporting our mission to change the way power is made.”

The new solar panel system is the first solar array to power a University of Houston building. The array’s 88 large photovoltaic (PV) solar panels cover 2,000 square feet and will convert sunlight into electricity, producing approximately 23,600 kilowatt hours (kWh) of clean energy annually. It is estimated that the solar array will save the University as much as $300,000 over the course of its 30-year lifetime.

The solar array will also have a positive impact on the environment. It is expected to avoid over 31,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. That is equivalent to more than 9,000 houses turning off all their lights for one day, not driving nearly 35,000 miles, taking 1,000 cars off the road for one day or recycling 12,500 lbs of newspaper.

Green Mountain’s Sun Club, which funded the University of Houston’s solar array, is a unique program in which Green Mountain’s Texas customers can choose to support solar energy installations in Texas by paying an additional $5 on their monthly Green Mountain Energy® electric bill. This is Green Mountain’s 32nd solar installation through the Sun Club since 2002 when the program was launched.

Additionally, the Green Mountain Sun Club has previously made 11 other solar donations to Houston-area organizations including: the Houston Zoo, Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council, Chinquapin School, and Houston Habitat for Humanity.

“We are very thankful to Green Mountain Energy for helping us take this significant step in the University of Houston’s clean energy journey to treat the earth right,” said Wolfthal.

Green Mountain Energy Company Solar Internship Program
As a result of the annual electricity savings that UH will receive from the solar array, the University has launched the Green Mountain Energy Company Solar Internship program. One student intern will be paid $1,000 per academic semester from the savings generated as a result of using the solar panels. The internship will run through May 2012. The intern will keep track of the solar arrays’ performance, update the Green Mountain Energy® Solar Array webpage and execute one on-campus educational event each semester.

“We are very excited about the first-ever Green Mountain Energy Company Solar Internship program! We look forward to hearing about the results of the solar array’s performance and the campus educational events,” said Lamping.

As part of the donation, an educational sign will be installed on the UH campus to inform students about the solar array, how it works and its environmental benefits. The solar panels were installed by Alternative Power Solutions. The general contractor for the project was Vaughn Construction.