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Transformative solar power agreement will help Emory reduce greenhouse gas emissions

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The Peavine parking decks are among the 16 campus buildings currently slated for solar panel installation. Rendering courtesy of Cherry Street Energy.

Emory University will install more than 15,000 solar panels across 16 buildings on its Druid Hills campus, which will generate approximately 10 percent of Emory’s peak energy requirements and reduce Emory’s greenhouse gas emissions by about 4,300 metric tons. Emory has awarded Cherry Street Energy a 20-year agreement to install 5.5. megawatts (MW) of solar generation across campus. 

“Various Emory rooftops and parking decks will soon be home to an array of solar photovoltaic panels, converting our campus into a significant site for clean energy supporting Emory’s carbon commitment,” says Robin Morey, vice president of Campus Services and chief planning officer at Emory University. “This transformational project upholds Emory’s commitment to addressing climate change and building a resilient and sustainable future.” 

The investment supports Emory’s newly revised greenhouse gas emissions goals, which now mirror the latest science articulated by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that requires a 45 percent reduction by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050. Additionally, through innovative financing methods, there are no capital commitments as a result of leveraging Emory’s future energy spend.

“This is a crucial step for Emory in reaching our sustainability goals and reaffirms our dedication to generate at least 10 percent of energy on campus through clean energy alternatives like solar, furthering our efforts toward 100 percent clean energy in partnership with the City of Atlanta by 2035,” says Ciannat Howett, associate vice president of Resilience, Sustainability and Economic Inclusion at Emory. “Through this project, Emory will have one of the largest deployments of on-site solar power at a higher education institution in the Southeast.”

Cherry Street will install more than 15,000 solar photovoltaic panels on building rooftops and parking structures across Emory as part of a Solar Energy Procurement Agreement (SEPA), an arrangement made legal in Georgia in 2015 that allows a private investor to install, own and maintain solar panels with Emory buying the power at rates lower than charged by the utility. Under SEPA, there are no upfront costs to Emory. Construction begins in May. 

“Our team welcomes Emory’s partnership incorporating renewable power across its campus,” says Michael Chanin, founder and CEO of Cherry Street Energy. “Emory offers meaningful leadership with this decision, demonstrating how the built environment of the future will incorporate renewable power on every structure that can support it.”

Furthering Emory’s commitment to economic inclusion, the installation of solar panels will be conducted as part of a recently launched Cherry Street Energy workforce development program. Shine On is a family of programs that helps workers get the experience and training needed to build a career in solar installation. Emory’s solar installations will provide critical opportunities to learn the skills necessary to work with cutting-edge solar technologies.   

“The 5.5 MW solar installation is part of Emory’s larger vision for clean and resilient energy on its campuses that has made steady progress over the past five years, including geothermal wells and combined heat and power (CHP) facilities,” says Joan Kowal, senior director of Resilience and Utility Strategies at Emory. “Emory hopes to tie the solar panels into a campus microgrid with CHP and battery back-up to enhance resiliency for critical campus buildings.”

For more information on Emory’s sustainability efforts, visit the Sustainability Initiatives website.

For more information on Cherry Street Energy and the Shine On campaign, visit Cherry Street Energy online.

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