ASU solar program shines, tops 14.5 megawatts

February 13, 2012

Visitors to the Valley of the Sun who peer out their airplane windows while flying into Sky Harbor International Airport can see the glimmer from nearly 2,100 solar panels perched atop Wells Fargo Arena. The nearly 500-kilowatt installation lets the world know that ASU’s passion for harnessing the Sun’s rays and commitment to employing renewable energy continues moving forward.

The Wells Fargo Arena installation became active exactly two months after a solar structure came online at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on the Downtown Phoenix campus. The 77-kilowatt Cronkite system marks ASU’s third campus of four to begin generating solar energy and was commemorated with an early-December event attended by officials from the City of Phoenix, Arizona Public Service and ASU. Download Full Image

The Fall 2011 semester marked bright times for ASU's solar initiatives. In early August, ASU announced construction plans for the PowerParasol – a 5.25-acre, first-of-its-kind solar-panel project by Arizona-based Strategic Solar Energy, LLC – designed to shade 800 parking spaces in Lot 59 on the Tempe campus. The PowerParasol came online in late December and the shaded space under the structures now is open for parking.

In early September, ASU surpassed 10 megawatts of total solar energy generating capacity when the 700-panel, 168-kilowatt Verde Dickey Dome structure became active on the ASU Tempe campus. The 10-megawatt pinnacle boosted ASU’s leadership in higher education for solar energy generation in the United States. To mark the momentous achievement, the university celebrated 10 megawatts with a ceremony attended by fiscal and energy partners at the ASU West campus.

A month later, ASU was named the Solar Partner of the Year by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA). The award was created by SEPA to recognize the value that a solar partner can bring a utility in the development and/or implementation of a solar project.

At the end of 2011, ASU had 55 systems comprised of more than 58,000 panels with the capacity to generate 14.5 megawatts of solar energy. The support of third-party business partners who have invested more than $121 million into ASU’s solar program has been critical to reaching this leading position in higher education solar power production. These financial commitments ensure that the university has a reduced capital investment over time.  

The university’s leading solar energy-generation capacity also is made possible in part by the APS Renewable Energy Incentive program for our Tempe, Downtown Phoenix and West campuses. Our first solar projects at the Polytechnic campus currently are under way and mark a new venture with Salt River Project (SRP). ASU is poised to reach 15.3 megawatts before the end of the Spring 2012 semester and will have solar installations operating on all four campuses and at the ASU Research Park.

Since ASU introduced the first 34-kilowatt solar panel system to the Tempe campus in 2004 on the Tyler Street parking structure, the university has made tremendous strides in its solar program. As ASU continues toward its 20 megawatt goal in 2014, it upholds a pledge to reduce its carbon footprint and implement sustainability-minded solutions into the campus community.

To learn more about the university's solar initiatives visit

Wendy Craft

Marketing and communications manager, Business and Finance Communications Group


Grand prize Innovation Challenge winner receives $10K in funding

February 13, 2012

9 winners receive seed funding to propel social ventures

Nine student-led teams were selected Feb. 13 to receive grants of up to $10,000 from the ASU Innovation Challenge, an entrepreneurship program designed to give undergraduate and graduate students an opportunity to make a difference through social innovation. These grants will be used as seed money to propel their ideas into ventures aimed at solving global problems. Download Full Image

Student innovators stood to the applause and cheers of their peers and mentors as the nine winning teams were announced. The grand prize winner was Applyforall – a for-profit website that brings those looking for a new credit card together with the credit card issuers. offers a new and innovative method to a service currently unavailable to consumers.

The Applyforall team is comprised of team leader Vern Wolfley, a student in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Dennis Wolfley, a graduate of the W. P. Carey School of Business; Ammon Wolfley, a graduate of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and team mentor Cindy Smith, of Zions Bancorporation. 

The team received a fully funded grant of $10,000, generously provided by Perkins Coie Law Firm – the sponsor of this year's grand prize. 

“We couldn't be more excited about being chosen as the grand prize winners of the ASU Innovation Challenge,” said Vern Wolfley, whose emotional response to the announcement was evident as he stood with his family to accept the award on stage. “As a family-based team, we have been working on this for quite some time and feel that we can finally move this further as a result of our award.”

This year 188 teams consisting of more than 500 ASU students from all disciplines applied to the Innovation Challenge, up 153 from last year. The 188 applicants were narrowed down to 30 finalists. Those 30 finalists participated in a pitch event over the weekend, where each team gave a five-minute presentation in front of a judging panel that would select nine winners.

Each winning team was awarded grants, but only Applyforall received the $10,000 grand prize from Perkins Coie.

“We were looking for an opportunity to invest in the innovators of tomorrow, and ASU just happened to be doing exactly what we wanted to support,” said Howard Cabot, a partner at Perkins Coie, who announced the winners in the Pima Ballroom of the Memorial Union, on the Tempe campus.

Another big winner was Peter Seymour from Seymour Enterprises. A returning Innovation Challenge winner, Seymour won a $5,000 grant to continue his work designing a low-cost respiratory monitor designed for infants with an elevated risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This technology, marketed to parents and hospitals, offers low-cost respiratory and vital sign monitoring equipment.

“The Innovation Challenge truly served as the launching point for Seymour Enterprises last year,” Seymour said. “I had an exciting new idea about a medical sensor but no real concept of how to go about starting a business or turning that idea into reality. After 12 months of truly innovative work, I can confidently say that all of our progress stems from this first validation. In the end, that is what the Innovation Challenge is really about.”

Other winning teams included a portable water purification system for developing countries, a personal development program for 15- to 16-year-old orphans in foster care, an interactive science community program, a modernized mechanical wheelchair, and the conversion of steel shipping containers into low-cost, modular and mobile medical clinics.

To view the list of winners, and to learn more about their social ventures, visit

This year's competition marks the third consecutive Innovation Challenge, which was made possible by a grant from the Perkins Coie and the Ewing Marion Kaufmann Foundation in Kansas City. Additional support came from James Culver, John Dorsey, Jonathan Pinkus and David Wetta. Culver, who served as a returning Innovation Challenge Final Round Judge, described the competition as an outstanding opportunity for student entrepreneurs and innovators.

Hayfa Aboukier,
Office of University Initiatives

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library