The 9H Research Foundation (9H) and the University of Wyoming are partnering to create a student research facility that includes a 3 MW solar installation, part of a larger goal to establish a clean energy engineering curriculum at UW.
The installation is intended to return $10 million in clean energy and support services to the university. First Solar is making a donation valued at $300,000 that includes more than 2,000 of First Solar’s Series 6 thin film modules, totaling nearly 1 MW of capacity. The remaining 2 MW of capacity will also use Series 6 modules.
The project will be constructed at the 9H Ranch near the university, on land owned by 9H co-founder and UW alumnus, Gene Humphrey.
9H is sponsoring a yearlong renewable energy design challenge for UW engineering seniors. With this latest project, 9H plans to hire additional student interns as well as funding $15,000 worth of projects for seven student groups to design and build solar and energy storage projects out of the new research facility.
Support for solar energy research and development at the state-funded university in Wyoming is especially significant, considering the state’s solar history.
To date, the state has installed roughly 140 MW of solar, good for 40th most in the nation, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). SEIA projects the state will add 178 MW of PV over the next five years, making it 47th in the nation over that span.
Utility PacifiCorp, in its 2019 Integrated Resource Plan, outlined plans to add 1,415 MW of new solar in Wyoming, paired with 354 MW of battery storage, to be phased in between 2024 and 2038. This capacity was planned to replace retiring coal-fired generating units, including Jim Bridger units 1 through 4; Naughton units 1, 2 and 3; and Dave Johnston units 1 through 4.
There is also the 240 MW Dinosolar project, developed by Enyo and planned for construction near Casper, Wyoming, in the west-central part of the state. Not much has come out about that project since the Natrona County Planning Commission issued the project a permit in May 2020; but, if completed, it would be the largest installation in the state, nearly doubling Wyoming’s entire installed capacity thus far by itself.
Once the 9H Ranch research project becomes operational, all of its energy proceeds will be donated back to the university.
Additional partners helping fund the 9H Research Foundation and student projects include Creative Energies Solar, Wyoming-NASA Space Grant Consortium, Alt E Wind and Solar, Black Bean Capital Partners, RiskThinking.AI, and Climate Risk Labs.
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