Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Allegheny County Community College Approves Installation Of 540-Kilowatt Solar Energy Array

On January 12, the
Community College of Allegheny County announced it received the green light to move forward with an extensive new solar installation that will produce more than a half a megawatt, or 540 kilowatts, of electricity annually – or enough energy to power almost 90 homes. 

The new solar array, to be installed by BAI Group, LLC, of State College, will save CCAC about $750,000 in energy costs over the next 28 years. And thanks to a Power Purchase Agreement with BAI, the college does not anticipate having to spend any of its own money on the project.

“This project is a win for the college and for the environment,” said Vice President and Chief Facilities Officer J.B. Messer. “CCAC has no capital or operating expenses—BAI will build, operate and maintain the array, and CCAC will pay for the electricity at a contractually-defined, predictable rate. In addition, our students will be able to use the array to explore concepts in physics, electricity and business.”

“CCAC has been serving its community for generations through transformative academic programs. In our view, this solar project is another demonstration of CCAC’s commitment to its community, faculty, and students,” said Sel Edor, Market Director of Renewables for BAI. “We are honored to partner with the college to make this project a reality. More than a cost-saving measure, this 540kW solar project will serve as an educational tool that will help train the next generation of energy professionals. Pennsylvania has a long history of energy leadership. We believe the state can lead in the clean energy transition as well. This CCAC solar project is a step in that direction.”

The project was facilitated in part by the Pennsylvania Solar Center, which worked with CCAC for several months through its GET Solar (Galvanizing Our Energy Transition) Program

GET Solar provides technical assistance and financial guidance to entities interested in making the switch to solar power.

“CCAC is setting a new standard in the region for smart innovation and environmental stewardship,” said Leo Kowalski, GET Solar program manager for the PA Solar Center. “This will be CCAC’s third major solar installation, so they’ve been a long-time leader in Pittsburgh for harnessing the power of solar energy. And this time around, with the project being larger in scope and also being their first time executing a Power Purchase Agreement, we were fortunate to help guide them through the process.”

A Power Purchase Agreement is a tool often used by tax-exempt organizations to gain access to solar energy with little to no financing upfront. 

A third-party investor (in this case, BAI) owns and maintains the solar array and the host site (here, CCAC) pays for the energy generated by the solar system, typically at a significantly lower price than what the host was paying before. 

In CCAC’s case, it will save about $750,000 over the next three decades, or about $27,000 a year.

CCAC’s first two arrays of solar panels, installed in 2018, were 15 and 64 kilowatts, and are located at West Hills Center and the Allegheny Campus, respectively. 

The new solar installation will be about 540 kilowatts and will cover the entire roof of CCAC’s North Campus building. 

The administration also plans to incorporate the installation as a subject of study in CCAC science, technology, business, and accounting classes.

More and more Pennsylvania businesses and organizations are choosing to go solar, and not just for sustainability reasons. 

Investments in renewable energy sources like solar and wind are also extremely cost-effective, paying for themselves relatively quickly and then achieving impressive cost savings down the road. 

In fact, a study from Power Grid Engineering & Markets (PowerGEM) found that replacing 10 percent of the state’s electric generation with solar would result in more than $300 million in net savings annually. 

Investing in solar also diversifies the state’s electricity mix, reducing overreliance on sources like natural gas that are beginning to dominate the market and keeping costs down for those consumers, as well.

In addition, entities that go solar wisely recognize that an investment in renewable energy is also an investment in their local communities. 

Pennsylvania renewable energy projects have created almost 10,000 jobs spanning the entire supply chain, from technicians and engineers to salespeople, construction workers, and manufacturers. 

And according to the Finding Pennsylvania Solar Future Project, increasing the solar portion of the state’s electricity mix from 0.5 percent to 10 percent by 2030 would create upwards of 100,000 jobs and result in a net economic benefit of $1.6 billion annually.

Organizations interested in potentially switching to solar energy should be sure to check the PA Solar Center’s GET Solar Program webpage or send an email to:

Conservation Leadership

-- Fish & Boat Commissioner Charles Charlesworth Honored As 2021 Conservationist Of The Year By Fly Fisherman Magazine 

-- Thouron Family Partners With Brandywine Conservancy, Oxford Area Foundation To Protect 577 Acres along Octoraro Creek In Chester County 

-- Mountainhome United Methodist Church Partners With Brodhead Watershed Assn. To Install 2 Green Infrastructure Projects In Monroe County

-- Delaware & Hudson Rail-Trail Named 2021 Pennsylvania Trail Of The Year

-- New Paradise Discovery Nature-Play Park Now Open In Monroe County

[Posted: January 13, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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