Under the Pitt Sustainability Plan, the University is committed to producing or procuring 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, while aspiring towards 100% by 2037 to help reach carbon neutrality. Purchased electricity accounts for about half of the University’s potential GHG emissions, and thus remains a key target for conservation, efficiency, and ongoing source shifts to cleaner options.
After a recent high of 23% in fiscal year 2019, for calendar year 2020, 21.7% of the University’s electricity originated from renewable energy sources. Closing this gap requires a combination of solutions, including on-site renewables, directly purchased renewables, long-term power purchase agreements, and renewable energy certificates (all detailed below).
The University of Pittsburgh has on-site solar installations dating back to 2012 — and is planning for additional future installations. Current on-site renewable installations on Pitt owned and occupied buildings include:
- Benedum Hall – 4.32 kW photovoltaic roof installation – Installed in 2012, this array is for research purposes, including 18 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels at different tilts (25 degrees and 45 degrees) and positioned in 3 directions (East, South, and West). It generally produces ~4,000 kWh annually; check out real-time generation data of electricity from this array.
- Pitt Bradford’s McDowell Hall has a had a 2.6 kW solar installation since 2014, which currently produces ~2,500 kWh annually.
- Energy Innovation Center ~50 kW array installed in Spring 2020 to serve the Pitt Energy GRID Institute‘s Electric Power Technologies Laboratory research (in Pittsburgh’s Lower Hill District).
Directly Purchased Renewables
The University of Pittsburgh currently procures ~11% of its electricity as 100% renewables through structured retail contracts that include unbundled renewable energy certificates (RECs). Beginning in 2019, Pitt’s first 100% renewables contract was for a small electricity portfolio that represents ~4% of the University’s annual electricity usage; in mid-2020, Pitt committed another ~7% of its electricity usage to 100% renewables via a separate contract.
Renewable Energy Certificates
In 2009, Pitt began regularly purchasing small amounts of renewable energy certificates (RECs) specific to LEED building certifications. All RECs purchased by Pitt are Green-e certified.
For both FY19 & FY20, the University purchased 32,000 RECs (or 32,000 MWh), equating nearly 14% of Pitt’s annual electricity consumption.
Long-term Power Purchase Agreements
The University of Pittsburgh is publicly committed to two long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) for local, renewable electricity that will combine to supply 36.5% of the Pittsburgh campus’s electricity by 2024, keeping the University on track to reach its strategic renewables goal. These PPAs include local:
- Solar – Pitt will purchase all of the renewable electricity produced by a planned 20-megawatt solar power facility just 25 miles from the Pittsburgh campus (on the border of Allegheny and Beaver Counties).
- Hydropower – Pitt is committed to acquiring 25% of its electrical needs from local, run-of-the-river hydropower less than 5 miles from campus on the Allegheny River, starting in 2023 — the equivalent of 50,000 MWh annually (8.4 MW nameplate).