West Campus solar array to generate 1.6 million kilowatt hours of electricity yearly

Yale University has begun to augment its renewable energy sources with electricity generated by a one-megawatt AC output photovoltaic solar array on roof space at the university’s West Campus.

Yale is purchasing the solar power from SolarCity, America’s largest solar power provider, at a discount to current utility rates.  SolarCity designed and installed the system of more than 4,400 solar panels spread over 350,000 square feet of a warehouse roof. Multiple members of SolarCity’s team that worked on Yale’s solar project are also Yale alumni.

The solar project is part of Yale’s effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and is one of a number of sustainability initiatives announced by President Peter Salovey in August 2014.

“Expanding renewable energy generation on campus is an important part of Yale’s commitment to address the consequences of climate change,” Salovey said.

The solar array will generate approximately 1.6 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, which is equal to the electricity used by about 130 Connecticut homes for one year. The solar energy production will offset the equivalent of more than 16,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide over the life of the system, which is roughly equal to taking more than 3,400 passenger cars off the road for a year.

“The West Campus building is an ideal location for an installation of this size,” said Virginia Chapman, director of Yale’s Office of Sustainability. “We are excited about what this project represents for the university, our strategic plan goals, and the future of renewable energy partnerships at Yale.”

Yale has a 20-year agreement with SolarCity to purchase the electricity the system produces.

The new power source at Yale represents an eight-fold increase in the university’s on-site renewable energy generation. Yale has smaller solar electricity-generating systems on Kroon Hall at the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, at the Divinity School’s Fisher Hall, and at the Swing Space building. Yale has also installed energy-producing micro-wind turbines on the roof of its Becton Engineering & Applied Science Center.

When he announced plans for the solar array at West Campus, Salovey noted that Yale has led by example through ambitious campus carbon-reduction programs, increased recycling, aggressive waste management, and more efficient building systems.

“Yale was a pioneer among universities in setting explicit goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 2005, and in developing a broader university-wide Sustainability Strategic Plan in 2010, which was updated last year,” he said.

Even though the size of the campus has grown by 14% since 2005, Yale thus far has decreased its greenhouse gas emissions by 12%, and is committed to meeting the goal of reducing campus greenhouse gas emissions 43% below 2005 levels by 2020.

Yale is actively exploring other opportunities to implement renewable energy systems on and off its campuses. For example, the university partnered with the State of Connecticut’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority to encourage university employees to install residential solar PV systems on their homes through the “Solarize U” program.