University of Richmond spins Spider Solar - Smart Energy Decisions

GHG Emissions, Solar, Sourcing Renewables  -  August 28, 2018

University of Richmond spins Spider Solar

The University of Richmond (UR) announced on August 27 that it will become the first institution of higher learning in the southeast to match 100% of its electricity needs with solar energy thanks to a PPA for a 20-megawatt solar energy facility known as Spider Solar, named for the school’s mascot.

"Spider Solar demonstrates University of Richmond’s value of stewardship," said UR’s Sustainability Director Rob Andrejewski, in a statement. "It follows an arc of deepening environmental commitment from energy efficient practices to on-site solar to this large-scale renewable energy project that has benefits well beyond our campus boundaries."

The agreement with sPower calls for construction of the Spider Solar as a stand-alone photovoltaic array that will be part of a larger 500-megawatt facility built and operated by the company. Spider Solar will feature 47,000 panels and produce 41,000 megawatt-hours of solar energy, neutralizing 19,720 metric tons of carbon annually. The facility, located 50 miles from the UR campus in Spotsylvania County, is expected to go online in early 2020. The project will reduce UR’s greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 60% while increasing the state’s solar capacity.

Spider Solar will allow UR to become one of only two higher education institutions in the U.S. to match 100% of its electricity needs with a single solar power source. In 2016 UR constructed the first solar array in the Commonwealth under Virginia’s new PPA pilot program, installing 749 solar panels on the roof of the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness.

 "With Spider Solar we’re minimizing the university’s exposure to the energy market and ultimately have more control forecasting our utility expenses," said Detterick. "This is a win-win situation as UR will be directly responsible for introducing additional renewable energy onto the grid without incurring the cost of owning or operating a large solar facility."

The statement noted that in consultation with advisory service firm Edison Energy, UR’s agreement with sPower also includes a variety of new educational opportunities on campus, including research grants, scholarships, curriculum enhancements, and vocational education opportunities.

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