UVA Expands Its Solar Energy Portfolio

Under a 25-year agreement, the University of Virginia will purchase the entire output of a proposed 120-acre solar facility, currently equal to nearly 10% of the university's electric demand.

The University of Virginia continues to expand its portfolio of carbon-free generation and achieve key sustainability targets with another partnership announced in July 2017 with Dominion Energy. Under a 25-year agreement, the University will purchase the entire output of a proposed 120-acre solar facility in Middlesex County. The solar facility, developed by Coronal Energy, will be constructed and owned by Dominion Energy. It will produce an estimated 15 megawatts of alternating current, or about 9% of the University’s electric demand.

The UVA Puller Solar facility joins the previously announced UVA Hollyfield Solar facility (seen below). In total, the two sites will produce 32 megawatts of solar energy and will offset about 21% of the University’s electric demand.

solar facility
The Middlesex County solar farm, called the UVA Puller Solar facility, joins the previously announced UVA Hollyfield Solar facility (shown here) in King William County. (Photo by Cameron Davidson)

“Once again UVA is providing public sector leadership on carbon emission reduction and renewable power generation in Virginia,” Governor Terry McAuliffe said. “This project, along with UVA’s Hollyfield and the Commonwealth’s Oceana Solar facilities, now means we are nearly halfway to achieving the eight percent renewable procurement goal I set out in 2015. I look forward to working with other public universities to follow UVA’s lead and power their educational operations with renewable energy.”

Patrick Hogan, the University’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, cited the collaboration as an important element in the University’s growing portfolio of sustainability initiatives. “Expanding renewable, solar energy in the mix of options the University of Virginia is using will make even bigger strides in our efforts to be efficient, green and sustainable,” Hogan said. “The University is pleased to be working with Dominion Energy in yet another venture.”

The solar facility will enable the University to reduce its carbon footprint by more than 15,000 metric tons a year, as well as reducing more than 19 metric tons of nitrogen, positioning UVA to meet key sustainability milestones. UVA has pledged to reduce its carbon and nitrogen footprints by 25% by the year 2025 below 2009 and 2010 levels, respectively. UVA is the first institution to calculate its nitrogen footprint and set a reduction goal.

UVA senior vice president for operations, Colette Sheehy, said the University has a successful track record on sustainability and energy conservation initiatives, and sees this second solar field as a means to help UVA reach its overall target. UVA’s five-year Sustainability Plan, launched in April 2016, compiles new ideas, as well as feedback generated over the past several years, while building upon the University’s existing initiatives, documents, and accomplishments.

With the UVA Facilities Management’s Delta Force program, which pursues deep energy savings, the University has reduced consumption in 51 of the university’s most energy-intensive buildings, which constitute more than 4.6 million square feet of built space. This has contributed to a 10% reduction in overall building energy use intensity since 2010.

The UVA Puller Solar Facility was acquired as a development asset from Coronal Energy, a solar development company with regional headquarters in Charlottesville, VA. The facility will feature approximately 58,800 solar panels, enough to power about 3,750 homes at peak output. Construction is slated to start in late 2017, with commercial operations occurring by the end of 2018.