From Foggy Bottom, whose name comes from an earlier era when the neighborhood was known for its fog and industrial smoke, comes one of the cleanest and sunniest initiatives in a long time. The George Washington University (GW), a Foggy Bottom institution located just a few blocks from the White House, is showing how a dense urban campus can go solar in a big way.
Harnessing the collective buying power of its partners the George Washington University Hospital and American University, GW finalized the largest non-utility solar PV power purchase agreement east of the Mississippi River. Under the terms of the deal, Duke Energy Renewables will build three large solar farms in North Carolina that will provide a fixed cost for approximately half of the University’s on-campus electricity needs, providing electricity savings to GW over the life of the 20-year contract.
When announced, this project was not only the largest solar contract ever signed by a U.S. institution (based on data compiled by US EPA’s Green Power Partners), but it also provided a groundbreaking new business model in which a major not-for-profit retail electricity customer solicited competitive bids to meet a large portion of its future demand with renewable energy generated in a distant state. So put another way, this solar farm would not have been built but for the proactive leadership of GW and its partners.
The generated power goes onto the same regional electricity grid, called PJM, from which GW draws its power. That means GW’s solar buy is displacing traditional energy sources on its regional grid -- the majority of which currently comes from coal fired generation and only about 0.05 percent from solar -- reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions across the Mid Atlantic.
This deal is an important addition to the many new innovative business models for solar energy, which accounted for 36 percent of all new U.S. electric generating capacity during the first three quarters of 2014, powering our country cleaner and more economically.