Northern Arizona University’s San Francisco Parking Garage got one more level on Tuesday—rows of solar panels along the top floor to harvest the 266 days of sunshine Flagstaff gets.

President Rita Cheng, who spoke at the ceremony marking the panels going live, said the system will generate enough renewable energy to power up to 100 homes and will save an estimated $1 million in electricity costs during the 25-year life cycle of the solar panels, which is 1.2 percent of the campus’ projected annual electric consumption.

The solar panels also provide shade to dozens of parking spaces on the roof of the garage.

“This system is the latest of many sustainable programs and facilities across the NAU campuses,” Cheng said. “We invest in efficient buildings and look for ways to encourage recycling and reuse, and we are reducing our water and energy consumption, all with the goal to reduce the impact our operations have on our environment.”

Funds from the student-supported Green Fund play an important role in funding initiatives like this and helped ensure the economic feasibility of this solar installation. Arizona Public Service and sustainable energy company Ameresco also partnered with NAU on this project.

Because of investments like the solar panels and the focus on energy efficiency in the building process, NAU has been recognized by a number of environmental organizations. The Sierra Club rated the university a “Cool School” for leading in sustainability, 14 buildings have earned LEED certification and NAU earned a gold ranking from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s STARS rating.

Solar panel opening

NAU has installed solar panels atop the San Francisco Parking Garage. The installation is expected to produce enough energy to power 100 homes a year.