Solar usage within higher education skyrockets

The installed capacity of solar generation power on U.S. college and university campuses grew 450 percent over the past three years.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Did you know that the solar technology installed on college and university campuses throughout the United States could power up to 40,000 homes?

With 137 megawatts installed, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in HIgher Education (AASHE) reports that the amount of solar generation capacity in higher education has grown by 450 percent over the past three years alone. Those installations are the equivalent of about 5.4 percent of the entire 956 megawatts of solar capacity installed in the United States during 2010.

One particularly massive installation that is listed in the AASHE database (see the link) is the one across the University of San Diego. The project, which used as power purchase agreement as the financing mechanism, installed 5,000 panels on 11 campus buildings. That technology now supplies about 15 percent of the campus' entire electricity consumption needs, at costs that are below local market rates.

The database of reference projects was created by AASHE and AMSOLAR, which develops (no surprise) solar installations at educational institutions.

Said Jared Quient, vice president of project development for AMSOLAR:

"The data show that solar is fast becoming a cost-competitive way for institutions to meet long-term electricity needs. If an institution is planning for the next 50 years, solar allows them to stabilize utility costs while providing an invaluable tool to educate their students about the benefits of renewable energy."

For me, the solar activity is a reminder that schools need to be thinking more like businesses when it comes to cutting and managing operational costs -- so that more money can be spent where it counts.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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