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Solar Plaza at the U Provides Students with Sustainable Gathering Space

The Student Solar Plaza will produce approximately 8,681 kWh of energy per year.

Sept. 19, 2014 — The University of Utah completed construction on an environmentally friendly, community gathering space for students living on campus. Located near the Peterson Heritage Center and between the Shoreline Ridge apartments, the Student Solar Plaza includes solar panel canopies with built-in tables and chairs, gas barbeque, fire pit and electrical outlets.

“Students spearheaded this project because we were lacking an outdoor common area where we can comfortably study, hold activities and visit with friends,” said Jenna Matsumura, a student leader working with the project. “This space will not only help create a more cohesive community among the apartment residents, but it will also be a visual representation of our commitment to sustainability efforts.”

Constructed into eight canopies, the 32 bifacial solar panels, which provide up to 35 percent more kWh than their standard module counterparts, will offset the amount of electricity used by the residence halls. In total, the panels will produce approximately 8,681 kWh of energy per year, which could satisfy the electricity needs for the average family home for almost one year.

The Student Solar Plaza was partially funded by a $35,000 grant from the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund, which allocates resources for projects that enhance campus sustainability. The remaining cost was covered by resident hall student fees and the university.

Designed by TSA Architects, who generously donated their services, the plaza evokes the merging of the raw elements of nearby Red Butte Garden and the Wasatch Mountains.

“With energy generated from design workshops with students this in not your typical garden gazebo,” said Nathan Murray, design principal. “It is an engaging gathering spot that rises from the earth and gives back.”

The construction was completed by Terra Engineering & Construction. BHB Engineers and Envision Engineering partnered with TSA Architects in the design of the project.

The dedication of the new Solar Plaza will be held Friday, Sept. 19, 2–3 p.m.