On April 19th 2016, the University of Richmond held a ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil its new solar array, the first to be installed in the Commonwealth under a new PPA Pilot Program. Event speakers Governor Terry McAuliffe, University of Richmond President Ronald Crutcher, Secure Futures President Tony Smith, University of Richmond Sustainability Coordinator Rob Andrewjeski, and University of Richmond student Zoe Kolberg-Shuler (’18) provided comments about the array.
In March 2016, the University of Richmond began installation of a 204.8 kW solar array on the roof of the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness. 749 panels will cover roughly 22,000 square feet of the rooftop. Seventy-six percent of the panels will be bifacial, allowing them to collect direct solar energy from the front and ambient energy from the back. The variation of both bifacial and mono-facial panels will serve as a solar learning lab for the university, as well as for Solar World USA, the solar panel manufacturer.
“This project serves as an example of distributed solar — energy that is used right where it is generated. Distributed solar represents one of the simplest technologies yet one of most challenging social innovations of our time,” said Secure Futures CEO, Tony Smith. Speaking directly to University of Richmond President Ronald Crutcher and Governor McAuliffe, Smith added “this project serves as a visible example of your commitment to current and future generations of students.”
This solar photovoltaic system will generate an estimated 237,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year, roughly equivalent to the energy needed to power 22 homes. Over the course of a year, the system will have the potential to offset 364,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide.
“Not only does this project help the university address its significant commitment to environmental sustainability, our agreement with Secure Futures should allow us to reduce our utility expenses,” said David Hale, vice president for business and finance at the University of Richmond.
The University of Richmond partnered with Secure Futures, a solar energy development company, under the Virginia Power Purchase Agreement Pilot Program. The project at the University of Richmond will be the first solar installation in the state made under the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), which is an important financial instrument for solar energy development. According to the PPA, Secure Futures will install, maintain, and own the solar photovoltaic array on top of the Weinstein Center. The company will sell the energy generated by the photovoltaic system to the University at a fixed rate over a period of 20 years.