COLLABORATION

Penn State University is home to Pennsylvania’s largest solar project

SOURCE: karsten.wuerth/Unsplash
Pennsylvania State University is teaming up with energy developer Lightsource BP on the state's largest ever solar farm

Pennsylvania State University is teaming up with energy developer Lightsource BP on the state’s largest ever solar farm, which will supply the university’s energy and help it achieve its sustainability goals.

The British company is days away from starting construction works on the project, which will see three such developments over the coming year. In total, the photovoltaic sites will produce 70MegaWatt of energy and cover 25 percent of the Penn State University’s power needs for the next 25 years.

Lightsource is renting a total of 500 acres of land from seven local farm owners to install a utility-scale solar array with 150,000 panel, making it the biggest in the state and costing a total of US$75 million.

On top of helping Penn State reach its target of a 35 percent greenhouse gas reduction by 2020, the solar farm will also provide an added income for the farmers.

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“It’s definitely a trend,” Mark O’Neilldirector of communications for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“We are seeing a surge over the last couple of years in the number of solar companies looking to connect with our farmers and offering the possibility of either buying or leasing their land for solar development.”

But the rewards are not just financial and environmental, there is also a significant educational benefit to the project.

As the farm is located near Penn State Mont Alto campus, the local college plans on offering unique educational experiences and internships that expose students to the whole process of solar energy in Pennsylvania.

Interns will learn about permitting, constructing, and installing utility solar projects, equipping them to become the next generation of leaders in this critical energy field.

The Penn State Sustainability Institute will also introduce Alternative Energy, Environmental Science, and Sustainability students to the operation of the site, essentially becoming a living lab for undergrads.

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Additionally, Lightsource BP will host Penn State student interns to work on research and activities related to the solar facilities.

“We want to show communities, faculty, staff and students that this project is the beginning of a lifetime discussion,” Brownson said. “We want to show people what the future looks like, because they are all a part of it.”

Financed, built, maintained and operated by Lightsource BP. Construction plans call for completion by summer 2020.

The US work is part of Lightsource BP’s current string of solar projects abroad, including a 700MW-plus pipeline worldwide, a 1.9GW push in Brazil and co-financing for Indian renewables.