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Fetzer Hall roof may be repaired with solar roof

Campus leaders in sustainability are looking to capitalize on the long-awaited repair of Fetzer Hall’s roof — in the form of solar technology.

The state released funds for the roof’s repair in 2012 to fix structural damage after years of waiting.

Renewable Energy Special Projects Committee co-chairwoman Jenna Koester said the committee is in the process of developing a plan to add in state-of-the-art solar technology along with the state’s repairs, similar to the technology on the roof of Morrison Residence Hall.

Solar projects are most cost effective when installed during a new build or large scale roof repair, Koester said.

Members of the committee, which is made up of students and administrators, allocated $37,750 on Feb. 12 for a structural design and technology design from the solar company Cogenra.

The committee’s leaders stressed that although they have funded the design, they have not formally decided to approve funds for the project yet.

“We are not just making decisions before getting an idea of what actual benefits will be,” Koester said.

“We want the project’s payback to be while the students who paid for it are still here. We want to make sure to benefit students directly through essentially lowering the energy bill of the University.”

If members deem the designs feasible and beneficial, the committee will most likely fund the project out of the annual $4 student “green” fee that was renewed by student body referendum Tuesday.

Freshman Chase Coale was one of the students that voted for the renewal of the fee.

“I love the idea that it’s a small individual contribution, but with so many students we have the actual power to make a difference,” he said.

Coale said he supports the idea of putting solar technology on the roof of Fetzer.

“I trust that they have the best intentions for my fee,” he said.

The committee originally attempted to install a solar thermal system in 2007 when the state initially committed to roof repair funding.

But five years later, when the funds still hadn’t been allocated, the design and technology had become outdated, Koester said. After switching to Cogenra’s design, the group will likely spend less than $300,000 on the project itself, she added.

Piya Kerdlap, co-chairman of the group, said the impact of the solar technology would be important for the University’s reputation.

“It would put Carolina at the forefront of exploring new alternative energy technologies at the university level,” he said.

Koester said the project would continue to develop UNC’s standing as a leader in sustainability.

“We are able to keep up with private institutions that don’t have the similar funding problems we do because students are forward-thinking and dedicated to sustainable leadership,” she said.

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