UO student powers Outdoor Program solar project

Rafael Arroyo graduated in June from the University of Oregon with a bachelor’s degree in Art. Along the way, he became something of an expert in project management and solar energy technology.

Arroyo, 28, served as de facto project manager for a new 6-kilowatt solar electric array installed in August atop the Outdoor Program Barn at East 18th Avenue and University Street.

“It was an interesting process,” he said. “There was no guide. I had to write the book.”

Arroyo, a graduate of McKay High School in Salem, now works as office coordinator for the Cultural Forum, which books music, art, movies and plays around campus. He first got involved with the Outdoor Program as a freshman. As a junior, he was named the program’s environmental coordinator. The job came with no guidelines or marching orders, so Arroyo started doing some research.

He learned that in 2009, the OP Barn underwent a major renovation. He learned that a solar power system was included in the original plans, but was cut from the project for lack of funds.

So Arroyo set about to determine if the project was still feasible, and whether he could find the money to make it happen.

First he approached LCC’s Energy Management Program, which trains students to become solar energy technicians. The program assigned four students to be interns on the UO project. Next Arroyo talked to the Solar Radiation Monitoring Laboratory at the UO. The lab loaned Arroyo a tool that analyzes sun patterns, which showed him a solar project would be feasible atop the OP Barn.

With that information, Arroyo wrote two grant applications, and received $9,500 from the Student Sustainability Center and $17,000 from the Over-Realized Fund.

“Rafael did a fantastic job of orchestrating the proposal,” said Outdoor Program staff member Dave Villalobos.

Arroyo requested proposals from contractors to build the project. Advanced Energy Systems of Eugene won the contract and installed the project over four days in August.

Thomas Brex of AES said he was impressed that Arroyo was able to make the project happen.

“A student really championed the project,” he said.

For his part, Arroyo said guiding a “real world”  project taught him things he would never have learned in the classroom.

“I know it made a difference,” he said. “It was empowering to know I could do it.”

Tim Christie