Philadelphia’s Temple University To Host 63kW Solar Plant

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Edberg-Olson Hall (Photo by Betsy Manning)
Temple University’s Edberg-Olson Hall. Photo Credit: Betsy Manning

Temple University’s Edberg-Olson Hall will soon be home to a 63 kilowatt solar array on its south-facing roof, the school’s website reports. The plant will be built, owned, and maintained by Philadelphia-based Community Energy Inc. The power that the solar plant generates will be sold to the university at rates competitive with its regular electricity suppliers. It is slated to be operational in December 2013.

Grid electricity in Pennsylvania comes mainly from coal-fired power plants, and the state’s electricity is some of the most carbon-intensive in the country. The reason that the university had hitherto refrained from sourcing its electricity from renewables was the cost, said senior vice president for construction, facilities, and operations James Creedon.

Although Temple students had encouraged the university’s staff to “explore alternative energies,” until now the school did not do so, instead opting to stick with cheaper grid electricity. “When Community Energy approached Temple about installing solar panels atop Edberg-Olson Hall, it seemed like a feasible idea; the location worked well, their proposal to provide the up-front capital was very good, and we felt comfortable purchasing the energy that was being generated because it was at a very competitive rate with our regular suppliers,” Mr Creedon said.

Temple will also take advantage of the potential to educate with its solar plant–and to get noticed. “Tens of thousands of commuters will be able to see this Community Energy Solar project at Temple University from the trains as they pass Edberg-Olson Hall on their way into and out of Center City Philadelphia every day,” said Kathleen Grady, Temple’s sustainability director. The project will hopefully raise awareness that solar panels are an increasingly viable option for not only universities, but for homes and businesses as well.

Temple University, in going solar, is one of a growing number of PA universities switching on clean energy, but also stands out in that it will have a solar array on site — renewable energy is often delivered to end-users in the form of marketed “green power,” which is ordinarily sourced from far-off wind and solar farms. The scalability & pollution-free nature of solar panels changes this dynamic by making it possible to have a power plant on site virtually anywhere–including the roof of a university building.

Community Energy Inc has been involved in the development of numerous clean energy projects across the northeast US, including Pennsylvania’s largest solar PV plant, the 5 megawatt Keystone Solar Project, plus several wind farms. The Temple University array is its most recent on-site solar project.

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