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100% Solar Power In A Snap For Fifth Third Bank, So Where’s Everyone Else?

With a single solar power purchase agreement, Fifth Third Bank shows how companies can accelerate the renewable energy transition, one state at a time.

Whelp, that was fast. It seems like only yesterday that Ohio-based Fifth Third Bancorp set a 100% solar power goal for its operations, and now, as of this morning, that’s what it has. Among all the solar deals in recent years, this one is particularly significant because it makes Fifth Third the first US bank and Fortune 500 company, and the first publicly traded company anywhere (on Earth, that is) to offset all of its carbon footprint by claiming the entire output from a single PV project through a power purchase agreement. So, what about all those other companies? After all, it’s not exactly like you have to reinvent the wheel to get a major solar power project off the ground these days. (Note: CleanTechnica switched to Fifth Third Bank last year due to its solar power commitment.)

solar power clean energy

How Fifth Third Bancorp’s new solar project reduces greenhouse gas emissions (screenshot via Fifth Third).

The Short Road To Solar Power

Really, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. When Fifth Third announced the contract for the new PV project in 2018 (okay so a little farther back than yesterday), it pulled in heavy hitters with loads of experience from the renewable energy field to assist.

The results were pretty spectacular. The project has enabled Fifth Third to achieve its solar goal three years earlier than anticipated.

Fifth Third tapped the Energy & Sustainability Services unit of the global power management leader Schneider Electric (these guys) to help it choose among the cornucopia of experienced solar developers in the US, which lead to the selection of SunEnergy1 to build the Aulander Holloman PV project, an 80 megawatt, US$200 million facility located in Hertford County, North Carolina.

In the department of paying it forward, Fifth Third also joined the RE100 corporate leadership initiative, a program run by The Climate Group and the Carbon Disclosure Project (now CDP). As an RE100 member, Fifth Third gets to share best practices globally and spur other companies onto the solar bandwagon (just ask fellow RE100 member GM), by taking the bottom line case for clean power into the corporate mainstream.

Here at home, Fifth Third also joined the Business Renewables Center of the Rocky Mountain Institute, which has been instrumental in shepherding innovate solar purchasing programs into the mainstream.

More Solar Power For North Carolina

When news of the contract first surfaced last year, Fifth Third anticipated that the solar farm would generate 194,000 megawatt-hours per year of clean power annually, enough to meet and possibly exceed the bank’s energy use.

As of today the Aulander Holloman facility has officially come online and it seems that expectations have risen. In an embargoed press release emailed to CleanTechnica, Fifth Third now cites 202,000 megawatt hours, streaming out from 350,000 solar panels. Single-axis tracking systems, more than 2,000 inverters, and other electrical systems round out the facility.

If that sounds like a lot of work, it is.  The project involved 1,000 workers during construction and the bean counters over at the Hertford County seat in Winton are expecting additional revenue from the “tens of millions of dollars” the project is pumping into the local economy.

More Bad News For Natural Gas

The bottom line benefits and substantial gains in green branding for Fifth Third are clear enough. For that matter, Fifth Third gained at least one new customer — CleanTechnica — last year, when it first announced the PPA deal.

The new project also demonstrates how large corporations can accelerate the clean energy transition by cutting deals on a state-by-state basis, regardless of the shenanigans going on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Fifth Third explains:

“The PPA facilitated the construction of the solar field by guaranteeing a fixed price for the electricity it generates, thereby enabling SunEnergy1 to secure funding and begin construction. The electricity generated by the facility is expected to be an amount equal to or more than the amount Fifth Third uses in one year and will be resold at market rates into the local electricity grid.”

That vigorous illustration of the economic power of solar power is not exactly heartwarming news for natural gas stakeholders, who have been trying to expand their foothold in North Carolina. A much anticipated fracking boom was on the verge of materializing under former Governor Pat McCrory, but that idea pretty much died on the vine after 2016, and renewables are pounding one nail after another into the coffin.

In addition to solar power, North Carolina’s considerable offshore wind power resources are poised to play a significant role in the state’s economy, which could include a ripple effect on manufacturing as well as power generation.

Circling back around to Schneider Electric, CleanTechnica recently reached out to the company for more insights on the renewable energy marketplace, so stay tuned for more on that.

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Related: CleanTechnica’s New Green Bank

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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