The new system is composed of 90 polycrystalline photovoltaic panels that will reduce the total electrical consumption of the building that houses the Faculty of Humanities and Education at Campus Casona de Las Condes by 40%.
For more than 10 years, university campuses around the world have been opting for renewable energy power generation. Chile will see an explosion in the use of solar energy, says Marcelo Mena, Director of the Center for Sustainability at Universidad Andrés Bello and one of the supporters of this project, which is the largest system of photovoltaic panels installed within a university campus.
"Solar energy is one of the fastest growing sources of renewable energy in Chile in the near future. Installing this solar power plant also provides a strong educational tool for students in degree programs like engineering, architecture and design," says Mena. UNAB wants to be prepared to respond to the demand for human capital that Chile will need to handle the "solar revolution".
During the inauguration of the new solar array, the Energy Minister Jorge Bunster said that Chile is seeking to rely less on fossil fuels and this initiative from U. Andres Bello is setting a positive example. In the same vein, the government is working on legislation that will allow users to generate electricity for their own consumption and inject the surplus energy into the grid; a great step forward that places Chile among the more developed countries.
To UNAB’s Rector, Dr. Pedro Uribe, installing this solar panel system is a milestone, and renewing UNAB’s commitment to the environment and sustainability: "It is the first project of its kind that we have completed and the first of many to come. It also has an important impact on helping to develop our students, promoting research and reaffirming our commitment to society and the environment," he said.
With an investment of 35 million pesos, that is forecast to break even in a little more than 10 years, UNAB hopes not only to achieve savings in electricity consumption of about 3 million pesos annually, but also reduce the university’s carbon footprint by approximately 20 tonnes of CO2 per year.
The 90 new solar panels are accompanied by another project to reduce water consumption in the Casona de Las Condes building. This includes 100 laminar sink aerators and 45 low-energy showers, which translates into a 70% reduction in water consumption from faucets and 50% from showers. That is an annual savings of 6 million pesos a year and a payback in two months.
The photovoltaic panels and water saving system projects are part of UNAB’s "Take care of yourself, Take care of the world" campaign, whose goal is to work for sustainable and efficient management of water resources and energy and better manage waste at the university.
"There are many things we can accomplish. This installation invites us to dream of a country that can transform sunlight, which we have in abundance, into energy for our economy and for the engines that drive us around town. It is a dream of energy independence from fossil fuels," said Marcelo Mena.
This article was originally written in Spanish and has been translated into English to be shared on the Laureate International Universities website.