Solar power is coming to Franklin this month of November. The University is working with AIL, the leading Luganese utility company, to install solar panels on top of New Residence A and New Residence B. This will help the Franklin community reduce its carbon footprint and impact on the environment.

This socially responsible action is not just part of Franklin’s 2018-2023 Strategic Plan but also comes as a result of important measures the University has been implementing over the past ten years. Besides continuing to support environmental initiatives on campus, Vice President for Finance and Administration, Tomaso Rizzi, has also been active improving the energy efficiency of the campus. “At the time of construction of phase 1 and 2, the University opted for eco-friendly options ranging from thermal insulation of the apartments, to the installation of a thermal heat pump to save energy, in particular natural gas, to motion activated lights for the outside corridors. Also, in the last year, we have begun to gradually replace high-consumption light bulbs with low wattage ones, both in the academic/administrative buildings and in some residence halls.”

Last fall, members of the Administration and Franklin Faculty (Fabio Ferrari, Brack Hale and Nicholas Hamelin) met with the AIL management team to discuss a potential partnership. AIL welcomed the idea of bringing its new eco-product AIL Solar Cloud to one of the largest University campuses in Ticino. Their site inspection confirmed the New Building as an ideal venue at FUS. By the end of November, 152 solar panels will have been fully installed on top of New Residence A and New Residence B, leading to the production of about 51,000 kWh per year.

Franklin’s contract with AIL will last 20 years, during which all costs and maintenance will be fully covered by AIL, which will, in turn, provide renewable and sustainable electricity at a fixed cost. Additionally, thanks to the “cloud”, Franklin will get credit for overproduction during summer, which can be subsequently used during the academic year. This will allow Franklin to generate about 30% of its own electricity, significantly reducing the dorms’ energy bill.

This example of community leadership was possible thanks to the class of 2018, who wanted to make a long-term impact on Franklin’s campus, by donating most of its senior gift for the purchase of the solar panels, thus covering Franklin’s initial setup costs of the partnership deal.

In addition to making the campus more sustainable, the dorm solar panel project will be an educational tool enabling students to measure the output of energy from the panels, and providing them with a better understanding of the benefits of renewable energy. “Educating students about energy conservation is something we are working on, both in the Office of Student Life and within Faculty,” remarked Brack Hale, Professor of Biology and Environmental Science, “and we are hopeful that the new partnership with AIL will offer more opportunities for our students to be conscious of their actions with respect to sustainability and to think about their social and environmental responsibilities as they consider future career plans and other lifestyle choices”.

As noted by AIL’s COO, Dr. Ing. Dipl. ETH Marco Bigatto, “New technologies and clean energy sources are the levers for sustainable and conscious development. Our activities have a direct impact on the territory and the environment and therefore we have no alternative but to preserve it. AIL Solar Cloud is our personal version of Switzerland’s Energy Strategy 2050, but moreover, it is our way to push energy future by constantly searching new paths.