Tapping Solar Potential in Higher Ed

Colleges, universities, and other higher education institutions have a combination of power consumption, land, finance, capacity and commitment to education that make them an important market sector for solar deployment.

In the U.S., colleges and universities account for nearly $450 billion dollars of investment and are well positioned to invest substantially in solar projects. These institutions are motivated to support solar to advance campus sustainability goals, achieve energy independence and price stability, and realize a return on investment. Installing solar also offers educational and research opportunities for students and faculty. As higher education institutions seek to prepare their students for the future job market, firsthand experience with renewable energy systems can become a valuable addition to the curriculum.

Solar projects installed by colleges and universities can also benefit surrounding communities, creating economic benefits and clean, renewable energy. Particularly in slower markets, college and university campuses can serve as important demonstration sites showcasing the technology and providing opportunity for public education.

Through SMP, work is underway to:

  • Spur investment in solar development by higher ed institutions on and off campuses.
  • Encourage the adoption of university board policies, and local community policies, that enable solar deployment.
  • Coordinate bulk procurement programs that pool the purchasing power of large institutions.
  • Engage students in designing projects and develop ongoing renewable energy curriculum and research opportunities to attract and engage students, faculty and staff.
  • Engage with communities where campuses are located.

Examples of SMP Awardees working with Higher Education

The Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) is working with universities to create solar PV investment proposals. Initially, MREA will work with four universities: Illinois State University, Missouri University of Science and Technology, the University of Minnesota, and Purdue University. The MREA team will also create an applied course in campus PV development in which university students will gain technical skills by completing solar site assessments and developing a solar investment proposal for each campus.  Read more.

The Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia (CICV) is developing  multi-year solar master plans for participating universities – helping them prepare for and purchase solar PV with the goal of deploying a minimum of 30MW of solar electricity within five years.   Read more.