A major solar panel project to be installed on six buildings at Georgetown this summer will increase the university’s sustainability efforts, reduce costs and serve low-income residents in the city.
The university has signed a power purchase agreement with Community Renewable Energy to install what Xavier Rivera, director for Georgetown’s department of energy and utilities, says is the largest rooftop solar system installation in the District of Columbia to date.
“This innovative project exemplifies Georgetown’s commitment to sustainability, an integrated approach driven by our Catholic and Jesuit heritage and our commitment to social justice and the common good,” says Robin Morey, vice president for planning and facilities management.
Minus 223 Cars
The project, facilitated by renewable energy consultant ClearRock, is expected to generate about 1.5 million kilowatt-hours of power each year, contributing to a cleaner electric grid and reducing annual emissions the equivalent of avoiding the use of 1.1 million pounds of coal or taking 223 cars off the road.
The project will be installed at no cost to the university and is expected to save Georgetown over $3 million on energy costs over 20 years.
“This initiative allows us to leverage the economics of solar to advance sustainability while addressing important deferred maintenance needs on campus,” Morey says.
The project includes replacing and modernizing the original solar panels on the roof of the Bunn Intercultural Centerand installing new solar panels on the rooftops of Regents Hall, the Davis Performing Arts Center, Alumni Square, McDonough Gym and the Leo O’Donovan Dining Hall.
Common Good Commitment
A portion of the revenue generated by the solar project will create a “community investment fund” to support clean energy projects in low-income areas of the District.
“This is a win-win for both the university and the city and is in keeping with Georgetown’s commitment to the common good,” says Morey.
The project is made possible through a collaboration among Georgetown, CRE, and Root + Branch, a benefits corporation founded by Laura Recchie, a 2010 graduate of the McCourt School of Public Policy.
Rivera says Community Renewable Energy will retain ownership of the panels, while Georgetown will use the power at a guaranteed price.
CRE will be responsible for the maintenance of the system and will retain the renewable energy credits and any incentives that the system may provide.
“The sale of these credits will help finance the cost of installing the system and contribute to the community investment fund,” he says.
Root + Branch, CRE, students and other university stakeholders will direct the fund, expected to total hundreds of thousands of dollars over the life of the project.
“The Bunn Intercultural Center, known on campus as the ICC, had a pioneering solar array funded by the Department of Energy that began in 1984 and remained in operation for over three decades,” Rivera notes. “It was the longest-running array of its kind and size in the country, and this new project continues Georgetown’s leadership in sustainability.”
The last time Georgetown installed solar panels on university buildings was in 2013. Georgetown students, staff and faculty launched the Solar Street project that year, placing solar panels on the rooftops of six university-owned townhouses just outside the main gates.
Georgetown also began purchasing Green-e certified renewable energy certificates to accompany 100 percent of its electrical power use in 2013, becoming the largest green power user in the Big East Conference.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave the university its 2013 Green Power Partner of the Year award for its efforts.
Georgetown also accomplished its goal of reducing its carbon footprint at least 50 percent by the year 2020 ahead of time in 2014 through the use of these certificates.
“We now seek to deepen our impact through additional investments in renewable energy, efficiency and conservation,” Morey says. “The university’s sustainability work is guided by a long-term vision of surpassing carbon neutrality to create a net positive impact on the climate and our local and global communities.”