Colleges: Solar and the Missing Piece
Colleges are increasingly jumping on the solar bandwagon. Let’s face it, solar installations on campus are a great way to save money and generate positive public relations. And for many colleges, solar has become the new point of differentiation; a way to stand apart from competitors and attract new students.
Saving money, helping the environment and offering students a green alternative choice, seems like a win-win for everyone – but what are they missing?
Arizona State University:
In 2014, Arizona State took the lead as the nation’s top installer of solar at institutions of higher learning.
- 89 installations on four campuses, as well as the ASU research park resulting in 24.1 MW of solar; enough solar power to cover nearly 50 percent of ASU’s peak daytime energy load
- Annual energy generation estimated at 42,826 MW hours; equivalent to powering 3,366 homes for one year
- Financed through third-party ownership; solar developers design, finance, install, operate and maintain the proposed solar systems, with ASU contracting to buy the power produced at an agreed-upon rate per kilowatt-hour, for a duration of up to 25 years.
In 2009, Rutgers completed installation of the largest college campus solar farm of its time; a solar parking canopy.
- A 28-acre parking lot with more than 7,000 panels, producing 8 MW of energy
- A “solar power plant” that provides over 60 percent of annual electricity used on their Livingston Campus
- Funded through third-party ownership, the University does not own the panels but agrees to use all of the electricity generated, and earns additional revenue through the sale of their Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs).
Colorado State University:
With a little help from Fort Collins Utilities and Namaste Solar, Colorado State is installing solar to the tune of 6,600 kilowatts campus wide.
- Solar energy includes a 15-acre solar field on CSU’s Foothills Campus.
- New solar installations include panels on the Student Recreation Center, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Durrell Center and three residence halls.
- Solar is being built through a Solar Power Purchase agreement; a third party ownership arrangement that differs from the usual PPA in that the utility purchases the energy generated by a third party developer, and the University receives lease payments for the panels instead of lower energy payments.
This small college near Sacramento, CA, has the notable distinction of being the first college in the U.S. to generate 102% of their electricity from solar.
- Total of 25,000 solar panels installed
- Generates about 6.5 million kilowatt hours per year, making them ‘grid positive;’ generating more energy than they consume.
- Cost was $27.3 million with anticipated savings of up to $100 million over 30 years.
Except for Butte College – all the colleges mentioned paid for their installations through some variant of a PPA – a third-party ownership agreement. And while that’s a very common and affordable way for businesses as well as residents to put solar on their rooftops, there is a missing piece; the opportunity to include community, whether that means the college community of students, staff and alumni, or the greater local community of residents and businesses. Enter – Community Green Energy.
Community Virtual Solar Gardens
Community Green Energy has developed a way for communities of all kinds to share in the benefits of solar. Through a University’s own Community Virtual Solar Garden, a solar installation becomes a way to engage, excite and support an expanded university community. The University still hosts the solar and buys the electricity at a discount; saving money and supporting sustainability goals. But now, instead of third-party investor ownership, the actual owners are members of the community. And every time the college pays for its energy, they are giving back – putting money into the pockets of residents, alumni, staff – all community members who have chosen to participate in the college’s own Community Virtual Solar Garden.
But, that’s not all
Not only is the solar locally generated and locally used, but now it’s locally owned, as well. And the money generated through local ownership stays in the community, helping stimulate the local economy.
With a Community Virtual Solar Garden – it really IS a win-win situation for everyone. And at EcoVisionSLC, we think that’s a good thing.