Brown University Heads Toward 100% Solar And Wind

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As a major part of a campus-wide effort to cut greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions, Brown University in Providence, R.I., has finalized agreements for two renewable energy projects that are expected to produce enough combined solar and wind power to offset all on-campus electricity use.

The first project — a collaboration with national energy provider and Providence-based Energy Development Partners (EDP) – will create Rhode Island’s highest-capacity contiguous solar generation project, located across a 240-acre field on a former gravel pit in North Kingstown, according to Constellation.

The 50 MW DC solar facility is expected to deliver 40 MW of converted AC power to the electrical grid. In addition, the project is expected to produce enough electricity to offset about 70% of Brown’s annual electricity consumption generated through fossil fuels.

EDP will purchase the land and develop the site in collaboration with Constellation, which will maintain ownership of the solar arrays and, together with Brown, lease the land. As outlined in a 25-year energy services agreement developed in partnership with CustomerFirst Renewables, Brown will obtain and retire project-specific renewable energy credits.

A second renewable energy project, an 8 MW wind farm being developed in Texas with another energy services provider, is expected to produce enough electricity to offset the rest of Brown’s annual use, says Constellation.

Together, the two projects position the university to far surpass the goal it set a decade ago to cut on-campus GHG emissions 42% below 2007 levels by 2020.

“In choosing to offset all on-campus electricity use with renewable energy, we are taking a significant step forward in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions,” says Christina Paxson, Brown’s president. “We realize that there is much more work ahead to ensure we do all we can to contribute to global efforts to combat the increasingly dire threat posed by climate change.”

The two renewable energy projects were selected from a pool of proposals submitted by more than 30 developers across the country. Over many months, a committee of faculty and staff weighed each project’s economic, social, political and environmental strengths.

Committee chair Stephen Porder, Brown’s assistant provost for sustainability and an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, says the university’s renewable energy purchases will contribute significantly to Rhode Island’s clean energy objectives. In 2017, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced a goal to increase the amount of renewable energy in the state from 100 MW to 1,000 MW by 2020.

“By enabling the construction of 40 MW of new renewables that will flow directly into Rhode Island’s electrical grid, Brown will play a substantial role in boosting the renewable energy assets in support of the state’s clean energy goals,” Porder says.

A specific time frame for construction on both the solar arrays in Rhode Island and the wind farm in Texas will be determined based on further discussion among the university, its energy company providers and the local utility companies in both states.

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