American University, George Washington University and GWU Hospital have agreed to purchase more than half of their power from three new solar farms in North Carolina. The Washington, DC-based institutions signed a 20 year power purchase agreement to buy 52 megawatts of solar PV from Duke Energy Renewables.
Enough to power just over 8,000 homes, the Solar Energy Industries Association said the agreement represents the country’s largest non-utility solar PV power purchase. The project will also be the largest PV solar power setup east of the Mississippi River, with more than 243,000 solar panels on three solar farms when completed in 2015.
The project, called the Capital Partners Solar Project, will break ground this summer and is projected to eliminate roughly 60,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year — the equivalent of taking 12,500 cars off the road, according to the Washington Post.
“We’re not just buying certificates for renewable energy, said George Washington University President Steven Knapp. “We’re actually directly sourcing from renewable energy. The impact of that is pretty huge.”
Having received proposals from 28 renewable energy companies providing both wind and solar options, the long-term fixed price agreement with Duke Energy will actually save the universities money overall as compared to fossil fuel generation.
“The price is lower than what we’re paying for brown power,” said Doug Kudravetz, American’s interim chief financial officer. “We fully expect this to save money over the long term, as well as mitigate any future price uncertainties.”
American University has a goal of becoming carbon-neutral by the year 2020.
“We felt an institution our size in partnership with one the size of GW could send a pretty strong message about both the feasibility and the wisdom of both the partnership and the move toward renewable sources of energy,” said American University President Neil Kerwin.
The project will also provides a boost to North Carolina’s growing solar industry. The state ranked third in solar PV installations in 2013 with 335 megawatts, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
“From our perspective as the project’s developer and owner, our message is largely the same — it creates economic development opportunities, a burst of jobs and tax base enhancement,” said Duke Renewables President Greg Wolf.