University of Lynchburg is among 15 members of the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia (CICV) that have been awarded more than $807,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative to help develop comprehensive plans for implementing solar power on campus.
The three-year program will help the colleges navigate the complex legal, regulatory and technical challenges associated with installing solar systems, leverage group purchasing power to achieve price reductions for hardware and installation services and create a learning network accessible by other organizations considering solar power. Consulting services will be provided to CICV by Optony, Inc., a global consulting firm focused on solar energy.
The other 14 colleges are Appalachian School of Law, Bridgewater College, Eastern Mennonite University, Emory & Henry College, Ferrum College, Hampton University, Hollins University, Mary Baldwin College, Marymount University, Randolph College, Roanoke College, Shenandoah University, Virginia Union University and Washington & Lee University.
“CICV member colleges are interested in sustainability and reducing their carbon footprints,” said CICV President Robert Lambeth, who serves as principal investigator for the program. “Our recent success with a collaboration that now provides five of our colleges with electricity generated from landfill gas provided the impetus for expanding our efforts to solar power.” LC is one of those schools.
“The SunShot Initiative presents an opportunity to work as a team to effectively make progress in an area that is challenging when working individually, particularly for our smaller schools that may be limited in the resources they can commit to installing solar,” Lambeth said.
The funding is a landmark achievement for CICV, as it is the first time the organization has sought federal funds to further its mission of collaboration among its members.
“SunShot is CICV’s first attempt at securing federal money to help our members meet their sustainability goals,” said Director of Business Operations Anita Girelli. “We have had success with so many collaborative projects; it seemed natural to continue those efforts in an area that is of such importance to our members, their communities and the environment.”
The ultimate goal is to create and implement a plan to deploy solar electricity within five years. This project has the potential to substantially increase the total amount of solar power now produced within the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Drawing on expertise from select faculty and staff at participating institutions, the project will eliminate duplication of effort and create a streamlined process. Students at participating institutions will also contribute time and effort to the program.
“Involving students in the process from start to finish will provide educational opportunities and exposure to innovative and current topics – knowledge we hope will inspire them to continue sustainability efforts long after their college years,” said Girelli.
Once the framework is in place and institutions are ready to begin installing solar power, CICV will develop a request for proposals (RFP) so that companies may bid to install the solar energy equipment schools choose.
A final part of the program is the development of a learning network that encourages and enables project replication, including a how-to guidebook and an online information hub accessible to interested parties within and outside Virginia throughout the project lifecycle and beyond.
“While solar energy is not their primary mission, our member colleges are proud to be good stewards of the earth and positive role models for their students and communities,” said Lambeth. “Many (including LC) are signatories to the Presidents’ Climate Commitment and are committed to becoming climate neutral. Solar energy is one way to make progress toward those goals.”