Penn State's 70-MW Solar Project to Reduce Emissions, Power School for 25 Years

A solar panel on Penn State's University Park campus. Credit Patrick Mansell
A solar panel on Penn State's University Park campus. Photo Credit: Patrick Mansell

Pennsylvania State University and Lightsource BP are partnering to develop a 70-megawatt (MW) project, which will provide 25 percent of the university’s electricity needs for 25 years, according to a university press release. Expected to be completed in July 2020, the project offers a way for the university to lower its annual electricity costs and greenhouse gas emissions by 57,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. This is the equivalent of taking more than 15,000 cars off the road.

The project includes 150,000 large-scale ground-mounted solar panels across three locations, adding up to 500 acres in Franklin County, Pa, near Penn State’s Mont Alto campus. The 70-MW project, which is also expected to reduce local air pollution, is tied for the largest solar project in the state.

“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.”

Lightsource BP is a partnership formed in 2018 between Lightsource Renewable Energy and BP. The companies work together to accelerate low-carbon energy access for communities around the world, according to its website.

“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,” said Katherine Ryzhaya, Lightsource BP’s chief commercial officer.

Penn State plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent by 2020, according to its strategic plan. Since 2005, the university has reduced its emissions by 32 percent.

This off-site solar project continues the university’s progress toward that goal, allowing it to reach a 43-percent emissions reduction. Penn State has also eliminated coal at the West Campus Steam Plant, installed a solar array that provides power to charge its 100 percent electric vehicles, and installed an on-site 2-MW solar array that provides 1 percent of the university’s electricity needs.

“This project not only provides the university with a reliable and sustainable energy source, but continues our progress toward our GHG reduction goals,” said David Gray, senior vice president for finance and business at Penn State. “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.”

About the Author

Marlena Chertock

Freelance Writer

Marlena Chertock is a former editorial intern at Electrical Contractor magazine who now writes for the magazine as a freelance journalist. Her articles have appeared in The Washington Post, Marketplace, NBC News, News21, WTOP and The Gazette. Contact...

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