College in PA helping to bring KY solar facility online Skip to content

College in PA helping to bring KY solar facility online

The Sebree Solar II project will be near Robards, Kentucky, and will generate enough energy to power 24,000 homes.

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Photo by Raphael Cruz / Unsplash

Via press release from Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College and eight other colleges and universities in North Carolina and Pennsylvania are joining forces to bring an innovative, large-scale solar facility online in western Kentucky. By collaborating on this Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), Davidson College, Dickinson College, Elon University, Haverford College, Lafayette College, Lehigh University, Muhlenberg College, Swarthmore College, and Wake Forest University are accessing the benefits of renewable energy through a deal typically only feasible for large customers.

“This collaboration is a major milestone in Swarthmore College’s efforts to decarbonize our energy systems and achieve our commitment to carbon neutrality by 2035,” remarked Elizabeth Drake, Director of Sustainability at Swarthmore College. “By partnering with other institutions, we are able to bring new renewable energy online which is something we’ve been working towards for multiple years.”

Guided by Coho, an ERM Group Company, the institutions are working with NextEra Energy Resources, the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun, and a world leader in battery energy storage. The consortium is supporting the Sebree Solar II project through a PPA that entails purchasing energy for 20 years. The Sebree Solar II project is set to begin construction in early 2025 and commence commercial operation by the end of 2026.The solar site is projected to provide enough energy to annually power more than 24,000 homes when complete.

The solar facility will be located near the town of Robards, Kentucky, near the Ohio River. The Sebree Solar II project will offer considerable environmental benefits as the project will generate up to 150 megawatts of clean, renewable energy. Over its 30-year lifespan, the solar site will contribute approximately $12 million in additional tax revenue to Henderson County which can be used for roads, schools and other public services.

While electricity generated by the Sebree Solar II project cannot be transmitted directly to the consortium campuses because of distance, the benefits of investing in new additional renewable energy will still be transferred to the schools. Swarthmore will be paying for an amount of energy equal to 100 percent of the electricity currently used by its campus. In exchange, the College will receive renewable energy credits, which can be used to account for greenhouse gas emissions related to purchased electricity.

The PPA is a critical piece of To Zero By Thirty-Five (20X35), the College’s transformative plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. Through this agreement, Swarthmore will eliminate 100% of our current annual greenhouse gas emissions associated with purchased electricity, which accounts for approximately one-third of our total emissions inventory. This is an important step towards decarbonizing our campus energy systems as we transition to geoexchange for heating and cooling. By coupling geoexchange with renewable energy, 20X35 will eventually eliminate up to 98% of campus greenhouse gas emissions related to energy and purchased electricity.

In addition to the procurement of off-site renewable energy, the College will continue to explore opportunities to expand solar installations on campus, such as the 400 kW capacity solar array on the top of the Dining and Community Commons.

“We are pleased to work with this cohort of colleges and universities to help them achieve their sustainability goals,” said Anthony Pedroni, vice president, renewable development and M&A NextEra Energy Resources. “This solar energy project will generate homegrown energy and provide millions of dollars in additional tax revenue to Henderson County over the life of the project.”

The institutions in the cohort will also receive access to data from the Sebree Solar II project for classroom use, as well as campus speaking engagements, site visits and student internships.

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