CCAC “flips the switch” to solar power with extensive 543-kilowatt solar installation; Solar panels were installed without expense to CCAC, and will save the college $750,000 in energy costs
PITTSBURGH—Today the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) officially “flipped the switch” to solar power. The extensive new 543 kilowatt solar installation will produce enough electricity to power 30–40% of CCAC North Campus’s electrical energy needs. The new solar array was installed by BAI Group, LLC, of State College, Pennsylvania, and was facilitated by the Pennsylvania Solar Center through its G.E.T. Solar program. It will save CCAC about $750,000 in energy costs over the next 28 years, and thanks to a Power Purchase Agreement with BAI, the college did not have to spend any of its own money on the project.
“As CCAC’s largest solar energy initiative to date, this project is truly a win-win—for the college and for the environment. The cost savings generated from this project means more money will be put toward other important college initiatives and programs, ones that benefit our students and the wider community,” said CCAC President Dr. Quintin Bullock. “Through a shared vision, Pennsylvania Solar Center, BAI Group and CCAC have demonstrated our commitment to sustainable energy, innovation and advancements in technology and education—hallmarks of our region and the Community College of Allegheny County.”
“CCAC has been serving its community for generations through transformative academic programs and we are honored to partner with the college to make this project a reality,” said Jim Echard, President, BAI Group, LLC. “In our view, this project is another demonstration of CCAC’s commitment to its community, faculty and students. More than a cost-saving measure, this 543kW solar project will serve as an educational tool that will help train the next generation of energy professionals.”
The project was facilitated in part by the Pennsylvania Solar Center, which worked with CCAC for several months through its G.E.T. Solar (Galvanizing our Energy Transition) program. G.E.T. Solar provides technical assistance and financial guidance to entities interested in making the switch to solar power.
“CCAC is lighting a path to the future with solar and is serving as an example for other educational institutions to follow,” said Leo Kowalski, G.E.T. Solar program manager for the PA Solar Center. “This will be CCAC’s third major solar installation, so they’ve already been a leader in Pittsburgh for harnessing the power of solar energy. But this time around, with the project being much larger in scope and their first time executing a Power Purchase Agreement, we were fortunate to help guide them through the process.”
A Power Purchase Agreement is a tool often used by tax-exempt organizations to gain access to solar energy with little to no financing upfront. A third-party investor (in this case, BAI) owns and maintains the solar array and the host site (here, CCAC) pays for the energy generated by the solar system, typically at a significantly lower price than what the host was paying before. In CCAC’s case, it will save about $750,000 over the next three decades, or about $27,000 a year.
CCAC’s first two arrays of solar panels, installed in 2018, were 15 and 64 kilowatts, and are located at West Hills Center and the Allegheny Campus, respectively. The new solar installation is much larger at about 543 kilowatts and covers the entire roof of CCAC’s North Campus building. The college will also incorporate the installation as a subject of study in CCAC science, technology, business and accounting classes.
More and more Pennsylvania businesses and organizations are choosing to go solar, and not just for sustainability reasons. Investments in renewable energy sources like solar and wind are also extremely cost-effective, paying for themselves relatively quickly and then achieving impressive cost savings down the road. In fact, a study from Power Grid Engineering & Markets (PowerGEM) found that replacing 10% of the state’s electric generation with solar would result in more than $300 million in net savings annually. Investing in solar also diversifies the state’s electricity mix, reducing overreliance on sources like natural gas that are beginning to dominate the market and keeping costs down for those consumers, as well.
In addition, entities that go solar wisely recognize that an investment in renewable energy is also an investment in their local communities. Pennsylvania renewable energy projects have created almost 10,000 jobs spanning the entire supply chain, from technicians and engineers to salespeople, construction workers and manufacturers. And according to the Finding Pennsylvania Solar Future Project, increasing the solar portion of the state’s electricity mix from 0.5% to 10% by 2030 would create upwards of 100,000 jobs and result in a net economic benefit of $1.6 billion annually.
Organizations interested in potentially switching to solar energy should be sure to check out PA Solar Center’s G.E.T. Solar program. Those interested can also learn more by visiting www.pasolarcenter.org or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo 1: Birds-eye view of CCAC North Campus solar installation.
Photo 2: Gathered following the announcement at North Campus are, from the left: Jim Echard, President, BAI Group, LLC; Sel Edor, Market Director, Renewables, BAI Group, LLC; Elaine Sadowski, Director of Energy & Sustainability, CCAC; Dr. Quintin Bullock, President, CCAC; Leo Kowalski, Program Management Consultant, Pennsylvania Solar Center; Sharon (Pillar) Grace, Founder & Director, Pennsylvania Solar Center; Carlo Vazquez, Chief Facilities Officer, CCAC; Dr. Evon Walters, President, Northwest Region, CCAC.