College campuses around the US are microcosms of innovation. Universities are moving renewable energy solutions, research and practical applications forward in all sorts of ways from technology to financing. Case in point, MIT has teamed up with Boston Medical Center (BMC) and the Post Office Square Redevelopment (POS) to buy energy produced by a 60 megawatt, 650-acre solar farm with 225,000 PV panels called Summit Farms in North Carolina.
Through a 25-year power-purchase agreement (PPA), MIT will purchase 73 percent—44 megawatts—of the power produced at Summit Farms. It’s one of the largest PPAs signed by a US university to date and will provide MIT with roughly 17 percent of its electric needs.
The new commitment is similar to the use of solar on and off campus at Stanford University, the entire California State University system and others that are working to become sustainable campuses. MIT’s announcement comes on the one-year anniversary of its Plan for Action on Climate Change, through which it pledges to reduce its carbon emissions by 32 percent of MIT’s 2014 levels by 2030.
The three Boston-area partners will benefit from 146 gigawatt-hours of emission-free power annually and will reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 119,500 metric tons. That's equal to taking just over 25,000 cars off the road, MIT stated.
“Today’s agreement not only enables us to address a substantial portion of MIT’s campus carbon emissions, but it also enables us to demonstrate the feasibility of large-scale renewable-energy projects to other potential purchasers, developers, and financiers,” says Maria Zuber, MIT’s vice president for research, “We believe our experience can help catalyze similar investments in clean energy, which will be vital to achieving a zero-carbon global energy system within this century.”
The PPA and the partners’ investments are allowing Virginia’s Dominion Energy to finance the project. North Carolina has more contiguous land available than most the Northeast and has an electric grid infrastructure that’s ready to facilitate a project of this magnitude. Also, according to MIT, more of North Carolina’s power is produced from coal plants than power produced in New England. Therefore the amount of emissions displaced by the solar energy produced at Summit Farms will have a greater impact in North Carolina than a solar farm of the same size in the Northeast.
“This solution shows how by acting together, organizations across industries and of vastly different size can capture the benefits of large-scale renewable energy that may have been out of reach if they had pursued renewable solutions alone. Together, we have created a roadmap for other diverse, urban institutions to access renewable energy in a way that will create change in the makeup of our country’s electrical grid,” said Gary Farha, president and CEO of CustomerFirst Renewables, the designer of the project.Tweet