Georgetown U Buys Into Local Solar

Georgetown University has taken the next step in its commitment to sustainability by committing to obtaining two-thirds of its total electricity consumption directly from "local" solar farms in Maryland and New Jersey. As a university statement explained, under a recently approved Power Purchase Agreement, the Washington, D.C.-based institution will buy 100,000 megawatt hours annual from 11 existing solar plants. Those facilities are part of a regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity across 13 states and DC itself.

Georgetown has been using solar power since the 1980s, when it added panels to its International Cultural Center. It has relied on 100-percent renewable energy for its campus since 2013. In 2014, the institution announced that it had reduced its carbon footprint by more than 71 percent, through the purchase of renewable energy certificates (RECs) for all of its power — meeting a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half, six years ahead of target.

According to university, the latest purchase of power from the existing facilities lets the school continue running on clean power while reducing long-term electricity costs and supporting the region's renewable energy industry.

Georgetown will purchase the power from the solar facilities without the associated RECs. Then, through a second financial transaction, the university will purchase green-e certified RECs through a broker for an equivalent amount of power for the first five of the 15-year agreement.

Students were part of the decision-making. Victoria Boatwright, a member of the class of 2022 studying biological physics and president of the student-led Green Renewable Energy and Environmental Network (GREEN), said her organization was "excited to see Georgetown continuing forward in pursuit of reducing our carbon emissions and decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels, and we were especially encouraged by administrators including students in this process."

"I think this is a great example of the progress that Georgetown can accomplish in pursuing clean energy sourcing and positive environmental impacts through a strong partnership between student organizations and administrators," she noted.

"This agreement is yet another step forward in a comprehensive set of commitments that Georgetown has made to ensure a sustainable future consistent with our broader mission of advancing the global common good," added Peter Marra, professor of biology and the environment and director of the Georgetown Environment Initiative.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.