UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State and Lightsource BP announced today (Feb. 5) the development of 70 megawatts of large-scale, offsite solar energy to support the University’s Strategic Plan, which cites stewardship of the planet’s resources as a key priority. The project to install large-scale solar arrays will provide 25 percent of Penn State’s state-wide electricity requirements over a 25-year term, while driving economic development and educational opportunities for the host community.
A win for Penn State, Pennsylvania and the environment
The project, a large-scale, ground-mounted solar array using over 150,000 solar panels in three locations encompassing roughly 500 acres of Franklin County land, will be located just outside of Chambersburg, near Penn State’s Mont Alto campus.
“This project is a win for Penn State, a win for Pennsylvania and a win for the environment,” said Rob Cooper, senior director of energy and engineering in Penn State's Office of Physical Plant. “Among the many benefits of this significant investment in solar-based electric generation include cost savings, lower greenhouse-gas emissions in support of Penn State’s aggressive sustainability goals, economic development with job creation, and income for host communities through development of the Pennsylvania solar market.”
The targeted completion date is set for July 2020.
Guiding the solar project’s development are specific goals and objectives, including:
- Lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by the equivalent of 57,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent of taking 15,250 internal combustion engine vehicles off the road.
- Reducing the University’s annual electric costs.
- Providing long-term budget certainty for a portion of the University’s electric generation requirements.
- Continuing support of Penn State’s 2016-2020 Strategic Plan: Our Commitment to Impact.
Because these solar facilities will be located close to a Penn State campus, the students and community will benefit from access and educational support provided by Lightsource BP, as well as benefiting from local air pollutant reduction, increased energy resiliency, and increased local economic development. The project is tied for the largest solar project in the state of Pennsylvania.
Part of a larger plan for meeting energy conservation goals
Since 2005, Penn State has reduced its GHG emissions by 32 percent. The first 17.5 percent reduction goal for 2012 was achieved by investment in energy conservation projects through the Energy Savings Program and increased system efficiency from a Combined Heat and Power installation of a combustion turbine and heat recovery system at the East Campus Steam Plant.
“Among the many benefits of this significant investment in solar-based electric generation include cost savings, lower greenhouse-gas emissions in support of Penn State’s aggressive sustainability goals, economic development with job creation, and income for host communities through development of the Pennsylvania solar market.”
— Rob Cooper, senior director of energy and engineering, Penn State Office of Physical Plant
The University’s 2020 GHG reduction goal is 35 percent. While progress toward that goal has been supported by eliminating coal at the West Campus Steam Plant, additional strategies are required. These include an onsite solar installation and continued investments in Energy Savings Projects. With this new offsite solar purchase with Lightsource BP providing 25 percent of Penn State’s current electricity consumption, more than 57,000 tons per year of GHG emissions will be saved, boosting Penn State's GHG emission reduction to 43 percent.
“I’m thrilled to be supporting another solar project that will provide a number of benefits to the University,” said David Gray, senior vice president for Finance and Business at Penn State. “This project not only provides the University with a reliable and sustainable energy source, but continues our progress toward our GHG reduction goals. In addition, our goals and this project align with Gov. Wolf’s executive order establishing the first statewide goal to reduce carbon pollution and procure renewable energy to offset at least 40 percent of the Commonwealth’s annual electricity usage.”
“It has been a pleasure and an honor working with Penn State and we look forward to delivering affordable, local solar to our Penn State partners,” said Katherine Ryzhaya, Lightsource BP’s chief commercial officer. “Our Pennsylvania-located solar projects will drive economic development and job growth, increase biodiversity, support Penn State’s sustainability goals, and provide a cleaner, healthier environment for the community. These projects demonstrate Lightsource BP’s strength in addressing the unique needs of universities and local communities.”
Other solar projects at Penn State
This is not the first solar project the University has supported or sponsored. In the fall of 2018, OPP and the Alternative Energy Development Group (AEDG) signed a 25-year power purchase agreement for an onsite solar array, which provides 1 percent of University Park’s campus electricity needs and is located along Orchard Road. In 2015, OPP, with the help of students and a $75,000 grant from the Sustainability Institute’s Reinvention Fund, installed a solar array outside its main facility to provide power to charge its 100 percent electric vehicles.
The MorningStar Solar Home, located in the Sustainability Experience Center, was built in 2007 and is a 100-percent renewable energy-powered home. It is used by teachers and faculty as an immersive learning destination. In addition, the gift of Penn State's Class of 2015 was a solar panel array powering a bus stop near Beaver Stadium.