U Richmond Offsets 100% of Electricity with Solar

A Virginia institution is the latest school to cover all of its electricity needs with a more sustainable source. The University of Richmond (UR) has joined campuses in Colorado, Hawaii and Minnesota to match 100 percent of its electricity usage with solar power.

A solar array dubbed "Spider Solar" has 47,000 panels generating 41,000 megawatt hours of solar energy annually. Rather than using that power directly, the university uses Spider Solar to replenish the electric grid to offset its own campus usage.

U Richmond Offsets 100% of Electricity with Solar

Source: AES

The solar field began operating on Dec. 31, 2020, generating the equivalent of the electricity usage of 5,000 homes.

"The university pledged in 2015 to accelerate its transition to low-carbon energy while enhancing sustainable and resilient practices across our campus," said Director of Sustainability, Rob Andrejewski, in a statement. "With Spider Solar now online, UR's greenhouse gas emissions will be 57 percent below where they were in 2009, putting us in a great position to aim for carbon neutrality."

Spider Solar is located in Spotsylvania County, about 60 miles away from the university. It was built and is operated by sPower, owned by AES. The university maintains a purchase power agreement, in which the company manages the day-to-day operations of the array, and the institution agrees to pay a fixed price for the energy produced.

This arrangement, said Mark Detterick, the university's senior associate vice president of campus operations, makes the school "directly responsible for introducing more renewable energy onto the grid, while being able to better predict the university's utility expenses, all without the costs associated with owning or operating a large solar facility."

Spider Solar is UR's second power purchase agreement. The university constructed its first solar array in 2016 under a state pilot program. That project involved the installation of 749 solar panels on the campus' Center for Recreation and Wellness.

About the Author

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