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Penn's Power Purchase Agreement will cover 75% of the power needs required by Penn’s campus and health system. Credit: Chase Sutton

Penn recently signed a Power Purchase Agreement for the construction of two new solar energy facilities in central Pennsylvania to supply campus with renewable energy. 

The two solar energy facilities will operate with the combined capacity of 220 megawatts and are projected to annually produce nearly 450,000 MWh of electricity. For the next 25 years, the electricity produced at these sites will be purchased by the University at a price competitive to standard electricity prices, Penn Today reported. 

Seventy-five percent of the required electricity for the academic campus and the University of Pennsylvania Health System will be provided by these sites, placing the project among the top of solar and wind installations within the Ivy League, Penn Today reported.

The purchase accelerates the University's commitment to a 100% carbon-neutral campus by 2042, as outlined in the Climate and Sustainability Action Plan 3.0 released in October.

Pennsylvania-based Community Energy, the University's project partner, expects the agreement to be the largest solar power project in the state, Penn Today reported. The company has a 20-year history of providing carbon-free energy to sites across the country, and currently supplies two active sites in Pennsylvania. 

Construction of the solar project is expected to begin in the fall of 2021, Penn Today reported. According to Community Energy Executive Vice President Jay Carlis, this commitment will allow for the project's commercial operation to begin towards the end of 2022. The electricity produced at these facilities will begin to be delivered the following year. 

The PPA will reduce Penn's academic campus carbon emissions by 45% in comparison to its emission rates in 2009, when the University laid out its first Climate Action Plan. Despite President Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Accords, this project will meet its goals seven years early. 

Fossil Free Penn coordinator and College senior Jacob Hershman applauded Penn’s efforts, but called on Penn to divest completely from the fossil fuel industry and handle waste in an environmentally friendly way.

Wharton senior and co-chair of the Climate Reality Project Kalyxa Roman praised Penn's announcement.

“The Power Purchase Agreement is a great first step to getting Penn to be a 100% renewable campus," Roman said. "It’s also a great step for [Philadelphia] because the renewable electricity will go directly into the grid, where a large portion of West [Philadelphia] draws energy from."