University agrees to buy all output from new solar power facility

As part of Pitt’s commitment to a carbon neutral Pittsburgh campus by 2037, the University has signed a new solar power purchase agreement that will supply approximately 13 percent of the campus’ annual electricity usage.

Under the 20-year agreement, the University will purchase all of the renewable electricity produced by a planned 20-megawatt solar power facility on the border of Allegheny and Beaver counties. Subject to municipal approvals, the Gaucho Solar development by LendLease Energy Development would begin operations in mid-2022 on 70 acres in Independence and Findlay townships, adjacent to Duquesne Light Co.’s Clinton substation.

This project, combined with Pitt’s previously announced plans to purchase power from a hydropower plant to be built on the Allegheny River, will mean at least 38 percent of Pitt’s electricity will come from local renewable sources by 2023. 

“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,”  Aurora Sharrard, Pitt’s director of sustainability, in a statement. “At the same time, it benefits the entire community by reducing pollutants from electricity generation that harm the region’s air quality.”

“Pitt had over 23 percent renewables in its electricity mix for calendar year 2019, up from 11 percent in 2018,” Sharrard said. The University’s Office of Sustainability tracks Pitt’s carbon reduction progress via an online sustainability dashboard; fiscal year 2019 updates are expected later this year.

The proposed solar power facility also will be able to be used as a living laboratory for student learning and research. At Pitt’s request, Lendlease also has agreed to install pollinator-friendly landscaping at the site.

Other sustainability news

  • The University’s Pittsburgh campus has earned certification as Pennsylvania’s newest Bee Campus USA through the nonprofit Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. In response to significant declines in native pollinator populations worldwide, Xerces’ Bee Campus USA program endorses a set of commitments for creating sustainable on-campus habitats for these small creatures whose work is so vital to feeding the planet. Read more about it here.

  • Pitt Sustainability was awarded grant funding from the Second Nature's Climate Solutions Acceleration Fund, which supports the pursuit of climate action activities by higher education institutions. Pitt is partnering with the city of Pittsburgh and Green Building Alliance to help develop an energy master plan for Oakland to help reduce carbon emissions.  

  • More than a thousand people responded to the first Pitt Sustainability Literacy & Culture Survey. Find the results here.

— Susan Jones


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