Tuesday, December 6, 2022

This agreement will get W&M closer to becoming carbon neutral by 2030

With electricity being the largest part of W&M’s carbon footprint, the agreement gets the university one step closer to becoming carbon neutral by 2030. WYDaily/Courtesy of Dominion Energy)
With electricity being the largest part of W&M’s carbon footprint, the agreement gets the university one step closer to becoming carbon neutral by 2030. WYDaily/Courtesy of Dominion Energy)

William & Mary has signed a power purchase agreement with Dominion Energy that will source nearly 50 percent of the university’s electricity from renewable energy.

At that rate, W&M will be sourcing a higher percentage of renewable energy than any other public university in the state. With electricity being the largest part of W&M’s carbon footprint, the agreement gets the university one step closer to becoming carbon neutral by 2030 — a goal it announced last fall in partnership with the University of Virginia.

“Management of energy both through our use and by source is an essential step in meeting the university’s 2030 carbon neutral goal,” said Sam Jones, senior vice president for finance and administration. “Partnering with Dominion Energy makes good environmental as well as business sense as we move toward this goal.”

The 20 MWAC project was developed by Strata Solar, which will also install the solar facility infrastructure on a farm located in nearby James City County.

Initial work on the project is expected to begin within the next few months, according to Farley Hunter, associate director of utilities, who has been working closely with Dominion Energy on the agreement. The production of solar energy at the farm will likely begin in 2021.

“We are proud to support William & Mary’s efforts to reduce their carbon footprint by powering their operations with renewable energy,” said Emil Avram, vice president of business development for Dominion Energy. “Adding cleaner energy to the grid benefits everyone, and partnerships like this help expand the development of clean energy by driving the market for renewables here in Virginia.”

William & Mary expects the 20-year contract will begin to save the university money after about six years.

“It is a great benefit to the W&M carbon neutrality goal, but it also makes business sense,” said Calandra Waters Lake, director of sustainability at W&M. “By knowing how much we will be paying for electricity over the next 20 years, our institution can plan appropriately. As the price of electricity fluctuates, and likely goes up, then there is also a chance for W&M to save money.”

Two demonstration solar projects are planned on campus for educational purposes. It has been difficult to find real estate to install them on a large scale, Waters Lake said.

“It’s been difficult to put in on-site solar of any substantive size that would reflect the commitment that we really want to make to green power,” Hunter said.

The decision to explore power purchase agreements was part of the university’s Sustainability Plan, which was announced in November 2018. Facilities Management has done “an outstanding job” of pursuing that goal and collaborating with Dominion Energy to identify the right project and set appropriate terms, said Waters Lake.

“We worked hard to get here,” Hunter said. “But it’s a substantial component of our evolving sustainability plan.”

The university is currently working on a Climate Action Plan, which will include additional steps to bring the university closer to its 2030 carbon neutrality goal.

W&M and Dominion Energy are discussing ways in which this effort can be used to benefit educational opportunities.

“In alignment with the mission of the university, we want this to be a teaching and learning opportunity,” Waters Lake said. “By connecting the project to curriculum and research, it has a broader impact beyond moving our campus toward carbon neutrality, it provides experiences that influence the decision-makers and problem-solvers of tomorrow.”

John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzohttp://wydaily.com
John Mangalonzo (john@localdailymedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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