Washington & Lee University

Washington and Lee University (W&L) in Lexington, Virginia leases a 444 kilowatt solar photovoltaic energy system at two locations on campus. The School of Law’s Lewis Hall hosts 1,016 SunPower solar PV panels with a capacity of 325 kW. A custom-designed steel solar canopy constructed over the university’s parking deck supports 540 Sanyo solar PV panels rated at 119 kW. Altogether, both solar arrays hold 1,556 solar panels, all made in the United States.

The project started operations in December of 2011 as the largest solar energy system in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Solar power at W&L represents a natural outgrowth of the University’s commitment to environmental sustainability and leadership on energy issues.

Secure Futures owns and operates the W&L solar energy system through its subsidiary, Lexington Solar LLC. W&L entered into a 20-year lease agreement with Lexington Solar.

Secure Futures, through its subsidiary Lexington Solar LLC, purchased and owns the solar panels on the W&L campus. W&L hosts the solar facility, and leases the equipment from Lexington Solar. Using economic stimulus funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, the Virginia Deparment of Mines, Minerals and Energy awarded an incentive grant for the project. ARRA funds through the US Treasury 1603 Investment Tax Credit grant also helped finance this project.

Southern Energy Management, a North-Carolina-based energy efficiency and solar power company, installed and maintains the Lewis Hall panels for Lexington Solar, while Maryland-based Standard Solar, Inc., installed and maintains the parking deck installation.

Building Community Resilience: American-made Equipment and Local Partners
  • Johann Zimmerman, structural engineer from Harrisonburg, VA, designed the parking deck steel support structure.
  • Nick Brash, structural engineer of Lexington, VA reviewed and certified the solar panel roof load for Lewis Hall.
  • Harman Construction, Inc. of Harrisonburg, VA served as general contractor for installing the parking deck structure.
  • Liphart Steel in Verona, VA, an employee-owned company, fabricated the steel and erected the steel structure.
  • The Sanyo solar panels on the parking deck solar canopy, and the SunPower panels on Lewis Hall, are certified American-made products.
  • All contractors on the project paid wages at or above  prevailing (union scale) levels.

The parking deck canopy was built in the summer of 2011 and the solar photovoltaic panels were installed on both Lewis Hall and over the parking deck during Fall 2011.

During peak sunshine conditions, the system generates 444 kW of power. This provides as much as 3% of W&L’s peak power consumption. See how much solar energy W&L’s system is generating today at the W&L Online Solar Dashboard.

W&L Dashboard

Click on the image to visit the W&L Online Solar Dashboard.

Solar panels nearly cover the entire roof of Lewis Hall. The rooftop panels are not visible from ground level but you can see them from other buildings on campus. The photovoltaic panels installed at the university’s parking deck are more visible. You can see the canopy with its panels up close from the top level of the parking deck itself. Or, if you’d like to get a great view of the solar array from above, take the walkway up towards Doremus Hall.

W&L ranks as one of the Sierra Club’s Cool Schools for the numerous improvements it has made in energy efficiency and resource conservation to meet its general sustainability goals and its pledges under agreements including the Presidents’ Climate Commitment and the Talloires Declaration. To save energy, the university has instituted a temperature regulation policy, has installed energy saving equipment and, in 2010, committed $5 million as part of its Five for Five Project of major overhauls to campus buildings and comfort systems planned to pay for themselves in energy savings within five years.

Going Solar from Washington and Lee News on Vimeo.

Projected Annual Pollution Savings 444 kW PV Deployment
7,280 lbs SO2- Sulphur Dioxide – Associated with visible pollution (haze) and acid rain.
12,960 lbs NOx – Oxides of Nitrogen – One of the main causes of ozone (smog), also associated with acid rain.
80 lbs PM10 – Particulate matter smaller than 10 microns – associated with lung ailments.
1.4 million lbs CO2 – Carbon Dioxide is a normal atmospheric component. However, increased levels are likely to cause future climate changes.
120 lbs VOC’s – Volatile Organic Compounds – One of the primary causes of ozone (smog), also some of the individual compounds are toxic.
480,000 gallons Cooling Water Consumption – Because power plants are typically only about 36% efficient, they throw off an enormous amount of waste heat.

Jesse ReistWashington & Lee University