Emory Adding 15,000 Solar Panels

Emory University is adding to its sustainability initiatives. The Atlanta-based institution will be installing more than 15,000 solar panels on 16 campus buildings. That represents 5.5 megawatts of solar generation, enough to produce about a tenth of the university's peak energy requirements.

Emory recently awarded a 20-year contract to Cherry Street Energy for the project. The energy company will install solar photovoltaic panels on building rooftops and parking structures across the university as part of a solar energy procurement agreement (SEPA). Emory will provide no upfront capital on the project, and it will buy the power at rates lower than what is charged by the utility. Construction was expected to start this month. Under a SEPA a third-party company owns, runs and maintains the solar system and benefits from the tax credits and income made by the generation of power. The customer provides the real estate and commits to buying the electric output for a set period.

"Various Emory rooftops and parking decks will soon be home to an array of solar photovoltaic panels, converting our campus into a significant site for clean energy supporting Emory's carbon commitment," said Robin Morey, Emory's vice president of Campus Services and chief planning officer, in a statement. "This transformational project upholds Emory's commitment to addressing climate change and building a resilient and sustainable future."

The program is a big step forward for the school's greenhouse gas emissions goals, which promote a 45 percent reduction by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050.

Eventually, the campus expects to tie the solar panels into a campus combined heat and power (CHP) microgrid with battery back-up. That will allow Emory to go into "island mode" and maintain operations should the surrounding community grid go down.

"This is a crucial step for Emory in reaching our sustainability goals and reaffirms our dedication to generate at least 10 percent of energy on campus through clean energy alternatives like solar, furthering our efforts toward 100 percent clean energy in partnership with the City of Atlanta by 2035," said Ciannat Howett, associate vice president of Resilience, Sustainability and Economic Inclusion at Emory.

About the Author

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