Photo: UB students tour a solar project in Buffalo. Photo: Douglas Levere
Cohorts of colleges and universities are aggregating energy loads to achieve economies of scale when sourcing renewable energy.
Localizing Buffalo’s Renewable Energy Future is an effort spearheaded by the University at Buffalo (UB) to deploy and source 100 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020. Also joining the effort are Buffalo State College, Erie Community College, Erie County, and the City of Buffalo.
The group is working with Edison Energy to launch a comprehensive renewable energy strategy that optimizes behind-the-meter solar projects throughout the participating entities’ Buffalo properties, combined with utility-scale projects in New York or elsewhere to reach the 100 MW goal.
“Our strategy is to think about how to enter into an energy PPA in a cutting-edge way, with a number of regional partners, while tying it into UB’s academic core,” says Ryan McPherson, UB’s chief sustainability officer and a key architect of the proposal.
Higher education is particularly well-suited to aggregation strategies.”
On-site solar is an attractive strategy because it can be highly visible to campus and municipal stakeholders and, since it is “behind-the-meter,” it displaces the full delivered cost of electricity. However, scale is often constrained by the number of viable sites available to host arrays. Much larger off-site wind and solar projects are capable of providing up to 100 percent of a campus’ electricity usage — achieving dramatically larger greenhouse gas reductions and far more significant financial benefits.
Both options can be conducive to a consortium-style approach in which two or more entities aggregate their efforts to capture economies of scale. Higher education is particularly well-suited to aggregation strategies, as evidenced by cohorts like the one in Buffalo that are forming to achieve scale through renewable energy buying groups.