In pursuit of Pitt’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2037, the University has recently committed to a 20 year agreement with the planned, local Gaucho Solar Development. Pitt is dedicated to purchasing all solar energy produced by the facility, which will amount to approximately 13% of electricity usage for the Pittsburgh campus.
The solar plant is expected to begin operations by mid-2022 and will be located on the border of nearby Allegheny and Beaver counties.
Pitt’s Director of Sustainability, Aurora Sharrard, elaborates on the widespread benefits this agreement will bring to the Univerisity, “Electricity generation accounts for about half of the University’s greenhouse gas emissions, so our commitment to local, renewable solar power is an important part of Pitt’s ongoing effort to reduce its carbon footprint. At the same time, it benefits the entire community by reducing pollutants from electricity generation that harm the region’s air quality.”
The new solar facility is also an opportunity for students to learn and conduct research about energy and sustainability. Much like the small, on-campus solar arrays for student research at Benedum Hall on the Pittsburgh campus and at Pitt-Bradford, the plant will serve as a living laboratory. Additionally, Pitt’s Energy GRID Institute has recently added a solar array for research at the Energy Innovation Center.
Everyone in the Pittsburgh community will benefit from this new commitment, including pollinators! Pitt has requested that all landscaping at the planned site be pollinator-friendly in accordance with its Sustainable Landscape Design Guidelines. Lendlease will be providing landscaping services.
Additional goals in Pitt’s Sustainability Plan include reducing greenhouse gas emissions 50% from a 2008 baseline and ensuring half of Pitt’s electricity is generated from renewable energy by 2030. The University is well on its way to meeting its goal for 2030, according to Sharrard, “Pitt had over 23% renewables in its electricity mix for calendar year 2019, up from 11% in 2018.” These figures are tracked by Pitt Sustainability using an online dashboard.
In 2018, Pitt committed to purchasing all hydropower produced by a low-impact hydroelectric plant on the Allegheny River that will begin production on 2022. With both the solar and hydropower commitments combined, 38% of Pitt’s electricity will come from renewable sources by 2023.