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Climate and Energy
As an urban university in downtown Washington, DC, with limited rooftops and open space, GW had to get creative in sourcing a large amount of renewable energy. The university developed an innovative solution to greening its electricity – Capital Partners Solar Project. Once fully operational in 2016, GW will source approximately half of its electricity from solar farms in its grid, which will accelerate GW reaching its 2025 carbon reduction goal. GW created the Capital Partners Solar Project in partnership with American University and the George Washington University Hospital, with support from CustomerFirst Renewables. Duke Energy Renewables is developing the 450-acres of solar farms, split across three sites located in close proximity to one another in northeastern North Carolina, based on the partners’ joint request for 123,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity annually – roughly the amount of electricity used by 8,200 U.S. homes every year.
The solar farms cumulative 52 MW capacity represents the largest solar PV project east of the Mississippi. Together, the partners will be purchasing more than 2.3 million megawatt hours (MWh) of solar power over a 20-year period. GW is the largest purchaser, taking about 70% of the electricity from this project, resulting in an estimated 30% reduction in GW’s carbon footprint beginning in 2016. The project's total combined purchase size, as well as that of GW’s portion alone, was the largest non-utility power purchase agreement for solar power in the country (as measured by total contracted MWh over the length of the term) at the time of signing according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership. To learn more, watch the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's webinar, "How Three Retail Buyers Source Large-Scale Solar Electricity."
Prior to the onset of the 20-year PPA term, beginning in 2015, GW will also purchase 100% of the electricity output from the first of three sites to be constructed for the Capital Partners Solar Project. The initial site is a 20 MW solar farm located in Pasquotank County, NC. GW will ramp up to its full solar purchase amount at the start of 2016, when the second and third solar farms are completed and commercially operable.
Closer to home, since 2011, GW finalized the installation of four solar thermal hot water systems on campus residence halls: Shenkman Hall, 2031F Street, 1959 E Street and Dakota Hall. These systems offset natural gas consumption and provide hot water heating to student residents. GW continues to explore other sites for renewable generation on both existing and new buildings. As part of its Climate Action Plan, GW is committed to using its campus as a test bed for new technologies that will help reduce our carbon footprint.
To help achieve its Climate Action and GWater Plan goals, GW will rely on comprehensive energy and water efficiency plans. To date, GW has launched four, large energy and water efficiency projects known as the Eco-Building Program. In Fall 2011, the university's Innovation Task Force, a committee launched by President Steven Knapp in 2009 to identify cost savings and new revenue for reinvestment in the university’s top academic priorities, accepted the idea for the Eco-Building Program. The university’s Facilities Services and Office of Sustainability are implementing and managing the Eco-Building Program in phases, a few campus buildings at a time.
The Eco-Building Program has been installing more modern and efficient equipment in selected buildings to reduce energy and water use, operating costs, and greenhouse gas emissions. These initiatives include: more efficient use of potable water; upgrading old HVAC equipment like boiler controls, chillers, and air-handling units; adding new HVAC equipment like variable-speed drives and variable-air-volume boxes; retro-commissioning older HVAC equipment; and installing more energy-efficient lighting and controls. These projects are being developed using a holistic view of savings opportunities across campus. Phase 1 focused on the Gelman Library block of buildings. Phase 2 focused on the Lisner Hall block of buildings. Phase 3 focused on Rice Hall, Marvin Center, and Funger and Duquès Halls. Phase 4, which is about to begin, will include four buildings at the Virginia Science and Technology Campus. The Eco-Building Program includes implementing a SCADA system for the Foggy Bottom Campus, including the Central Utility Plant, and an energy dashboard.
GW also leverages the annual Eco-Challenge to help unite the student community in conservation. In summer months, GW also participates in demand response programs to help alleviate pressure on the electric grid during peak usage hours.
Solar Walk links Exploration and Innovation Halls on GW's Science & Technology Campus (VSTC) in Ashburn, VA, through innovative solar technologies including a trellis with photovoltaic panels that supplements electricity for lighting. An installation of ‘walkable’ solar panels is also being tested. Landscape elements include 100% native plant materials, multiple rain gardens, permeable pavements, bioswale, and rainwater collection from trellis roofs. The Solar Walk is part of the VSTC's expansion of its academic programs and physical presence.