UVA receives national recognition for investment in solar energy - WVIR

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) – The University of Virginia is garnering national attention for going green. If you walk around UVA Grounds it may not seem obvious, but it may become more clear from a bird’s eye-view.
Hundreds of solar panels sit atop six different buildings, hoping to curb the university’s electricity use.
“There’s wires that run under each of these solar panels that run back to inverters,” Jesse Warren, one of the program manager’s with UVA’s sustainability office, said. “Those inverts take the electricity from the sun and convert it to a voltage that we can use in the building.”
A large portion of the university’s solar energy production happens off UVA Grounds.
“UVA buys and consumes energy from our Hollyfield and Polar facilities, where we generate about 600 million kilowatt hours of energy a year. That’s enough to power about 6,000 homes,” Warren said.
UVA’s investment in solar has garnered national recognition. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ranks it among the top 30 universities, among participating schools, across nation for green power.
However, Warren says installing solar is expensive and requires extensive planning. Panels found on top of Clemmons Hall alone cost almost $300,000. To save money, UVA partners with Dominion Energy to rent solar panels.
“We enter into a long term contract to buy the power that is generated instead of the panels, and we lease them the roof space on which they do it,” Warren said. “So our power bill doesn’t go up or at least it only goes up a little bit. And the shift comes from moving the spend from Dominion to the solar vendor.”
UVA recently updated the standard for its new buildings, which are planned to not have any connection to burning fossil fuels. In total, 75 buildings are rated as “LEED” buildings for their energy efficiency, which UVA Sustainability says has its climate emissions by 40%.
It’s an investment Warren says is worth it, as the university tries to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.
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