Penn signs Power Purchase Agreement for largest solar project in Pennsylvania

Aerial view of large greens landscape with solar panels set out over a large field.
Keystone Solar, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. (Image: Community Energy, Inc.)

The University of Pennsylvania has signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for the creation of a solar power project moving the University significantly closer to meeting its commitment of a 100% carbon neutral campus by 2042, as outlined in the Climate & Sustainability Action Plan 3.0.

The agreement (consisting of two contracts) will result in the construction in central Pennsylvania of two new solar energy facilities with combined capacity of 220 megawatts, which is projected to produce approximately 450,000 MWh of electricity annually. Penn will purchase all electricity produced at the sites—equal to about 75% of the total electricity demand of the academic campus and the University of Pennsylvania Health System—for 25 years at a rate competitive with conventional electricity prices. The project partner, Radnor, Pennsylvania-based Community Energy, expects this to be the largest solar power project in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The scale of the PPA enables this agreement to cover both the University academic campus and the Health System, and ranks it at the top of solar and wind installations created by Penn’s Ivy League university peers to offset their carbon emissions.

Penn intends to retire all Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Credits produced by the project, meaning that the solar power generated will be above and beyond Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard requirements, and will be key to meeting the campus’ carbon reduction goals. This project, comprised of two facilities, would not be built without this commitment from the University of Pennsylvania.

“This agreement not only allows the University of Pennsylvania to continue to demonstrate strong leadership on climate action, but it also provides a competitive price on electricity,” said Anne Papageorge, vice president of the University’s Division of Facilities & Real Estate Services. “The University first laid out its roadmap to environmental sustainability in 2009, and we’ve accomplished much. This PPA is our most recent example of Penn’s commitment to meeting our climate goals.”

“This massive solar power commitment demonstrates impressive and much needed leadership on climate change,” said Jay Carlis, executive vice president of Community Energy. “This voluntary power purchase agreement with the University of Pennsylvania is the gold standard for renewable energy procurement. This long-term commitment today is needed to make the development of this project a reality for commercial operation towards the end of 2022.”

Starting in 2023, the PPA will supplement the University’s past and ongoing energy conservation and sustainability efforts, reduce the University’s entire academic campus carbon emissions by 45% from its 2009 levels, and meet the goal of the Paris Climate Accord seven years early.

The University of Pennsylvania became an early adopter of renewable energy purchases with a 10-year renewable energy contract signed with Community Energy in 2006, for the Bear Creek Wind Farm, one of the first in Pennsylvania. Thanks to that contract and additional green power purchases, the University became a perennial leader atop the EPA Green Power Partnership list of college and university renewable energy purchasers. The new Penn solar project is expected to break ground in the fall of 2021 and the electricity will begin to be delivered beginning in 2023.