Solar array covers 100% of University of Richmond's power needs - Smart Energy Decisions

GHG Emissions, Solar, Sourcing Renewables  -  January 28, 2021

Solar array covers 100% of the University of Richmond's power needs

The University of Richmond (UR) announced on Jan. 27 that its new Spider Solar project is online. This makes UR one of only two higher education institutions in the U.S., and the first in the Southeast, to match 100% of its electricity needs with a single solar power source. 

“The University pledged in 2015 to accelerate its transition to low-carbon energy while enhancing sustainable and resilient practices across our campus,” director of sustainability Rob Andrejewski said in a statement. “With Spider Solar now online, UR’s greenhouse gas emissions will be 57% below where they were in 2009, putting us in a great position to aim for carbon neutrality.”

Spider Solar, named for the school's mascot, is UR’s second power purchase agreement. In 2016, the university constructed the first solar array in the Commonwealth under Virginia’s PPA pilot program, installing 749 solar panels on the roof of the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness.

The 20-MW Spider Solar energy facility replenishes the electric grid with the same amount of renewable solar energy that the campus uses to run day-to-day operations. The array’s more than 47,000-panels began operating on Dec. 31, 2020, and will produce 41,000 MWh of solar energy annually – equivalent to the annual electricity use of 5,000 homes – and will neutralize 19,720 metric tons of carbon annually.

The installation was built and is operated by sPower, which merged with AES' clean energy business early this year. 

“Through a purchase power agreement, AES manages the day-to-day operations of the solar array, and UR agrees to pay a fixed price for the renewable energy it creates,” Mark Detterick, UR’s senior associate vice president of campus operations, said in the statement. “By doing so, UR will be directly responsible for introducing more renewable energy onto the grid, while being able to better predict the University’s utility expenses, all without the costs associated with owning or operating a large solar facility.”

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