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Dickinson and Partners' Solar Project Wins Global Sustainability Award

Solar Farm

Combined with Dickinson’s Tesla-designed-and-built 3-megawatt solar field (pictured) and multiple other solar arrays on campus, the new power purchase agreement eradicates approximately 75% of Dickinson’s electricity-related emissions.

A partnership among Dickinson and three other Pennsylvania institutions has earned global recognition

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) announced that a Solar Project Collaboration by four Pennsylvania institutions—Dickinson College, Lafayette College, Lehigh University and Muhlenberg College—is the 2020 Campus Sustainability Achievement Award recipient for Institutions with under 10,000 Full-Time Equivalent Enrollment. AASHE made the announcement during its live awards ceremony on Dec. 3.

AASHE’s annual Sustainability Awards recognize outstanding achievements and progress toward environmental, social and economic health. The organization bestows its prestigious awards on the institutions and individuals that are leading higher education to a sustainable future. 

“We’re very excited to receive this sustainability award from AASHE for our renewable energy project with Lehigh, Lafayette and Muhlenberg,” said Ken Shultes ’89, Dickinson’s associate vice president for sustainability and facilities planning. “This project will mitigate 45% of Dickinson’s total electricity related emissions, annually, for the next 15 years. When combined with our 3MW campus solar field, it places us in a very sustainable position for the foreseeable future—financially, environmentally and educationally.”

AASHE named 11 winners, and one honorable mention, from 450 submissions across four award categories this year. Entries were judged on overall impact, innovation, stakeholder involvement, clarity and other criteria specific to each category.

In February, the four Pennsylvania institutions signed a 15-year virtual power-purchase agreement to buy renewable energy that will be generated by a newly constructed 200+ acre solar farm located in Texas. Together, they plan to purchase the largest amount of solar power of any group of independent higher education institutions in the nation. They also represent the first group of colleges and universities in Pennsylvania to enter into a power purchasing agreement.

Combined with other carbon neutrality efforts, the partnership enables all four institutions to mitigate 100 percent of their emissions associated with electricity usage while balancing cost, risk, environmental impact and other strategic benefits. 

Collectively, the group’s 45.9 megawatt share of the project is anticipated to help prevent over 70,000 metric tons of carbon emissions each year, which is equivalent to removing over 15,000 cars from the road or the amount of carbon sequestered by nearly 85,000 acres of forest.      

The institutions began collaborating in pursuit of a renewable energy project in January 2019, aiming to advance sustainability interests among premier academic institutions in Pennsylvania and serve as an example of how a mix of mid-sized and small institutions can aggregate together to leverage greater purchasing power. 

The AASHE Sustainability Awards provide global recognition to the individuals and organizations leading the higher education sustainability movement. To date, nearly 110 winners have been recognized through this prestigious award program since its inception in 2006.

Learn more about sustainability at Dickinson.

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Published December 3, 2020