Mary Baldwin University is one of 15 institutions of higher learning Virginia tapped to participate in the planning for the use of solar energy on their campuses.
The SunShot Initiative — made possible by an $807,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and administered by the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia (CICV) — calls for engagement of local government and utilities and participation from students and the local community organizations, even offering credit to students who help other non-profits in designing and installing solar energy systems.
At this stage, funding will go toward the planning process, according to Mary Baldwin Director of Facilities Management Brent Douglass. The implementation of the plan will happen in a subsequent phase, contingent on funding. The goal is to deploy a minimum of 30 megawatts of solar energy on the 15 campuses within five years.
Mary Baldwin will also help improve procedural, administrative, financial, and legal processes in local communities; achieve price reductions by leveraging, public-private financing, innovative legal frameworks, and group purchasing power among the participating colleges; and help develop a learning network accessible to those organizations who seek to deploy solar energy in the future.
“CICV member colleges are interested in sustainability and reducing their carbon footprints,” said CICV President Robert Lambeth, who serves as principal investigator for the program. “Our recent success with a collaboration that now provides five of our colleges with electricity generated from landfill gas provided the impetus for expanding our efforts to solar power.
“The SunShot Initiative presents an opportunity to work as a team to effectively make progress in an area that is challenging when working individually, particularly for our smaller schools that may be limited in the resources they can commit to installing solar.”
Use of solar energy has been on the rise in the United States, including among major corporations, which see the alternative energy source as a money saver. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the top 25 corporate solar users in America have installed more than 569 MW of capacity at 1,100 different facilities across the country as of August 2014. It is also an economic driver as well, according to the SEIA, reporting that there are nearly 174,000 American solar workers, a more than 20 percent increase over employment totals in 2014.
Other institutions involved in the collaborative initiative include Appalachian School of Law, Bridgewater College, Eastern Mennonite University, Emory & Henry College, Ferrum College, Hampton University, Hollins University, Lynchburg College, Marymount University, Randolph College, Roanoke College, Shenandoah University, Virginia Union University and Washington & Lee University.