University Partners with Solar Farm Near Airport

Second solar farm planned near PIT, set to power University of Pittsburgh

By Bob Kerlik

Published June 29, 2020

Read Time: 2 mins


Solar production near Pittsburgh International Airport is almost becoming a trend.

The University of Pittsburgh announced last week that it will buy all of the energy produced by a planned 20-megawatt solar power facility near the airport. The power will supply about 13 percent of the campus’ annual electrical usage, according to Pitt.

The planned Gaucho Solar development will be located on 70 acres on the border of Allegheny and Beaver counties. Subject to municipal approval, the solar installation would begin operations in mid-2022.

“Electricity generation accounts for about half of the University’s greenhouse gas emissions, so our commitment to local, renewable solar power is an important part of Pitt’s ongoing effort to reduce its carbon footprint,” said Aurora Sharrard, Pitt’s director of sustainability. “At the same time, it benefits the entire community by reducing pollutants from electricity generation that harm the region’s air quality.”

The announcement comes as the airport moves closer to breaking ground on its own electricity-producing microgrid that will be fueled by natural gas and solar energy. The three megawatt solar portion of the airport’s first-of-its-kind microgrid involves nearly 8,000 solar panels across eight acres. The microgrid is scheduled to be completed next year and will be the first to completely power a major U.S. airport.

Airport officials announced their plans in the wake of several high-profile airport power outages that canceled thousands of flights and disrupted travel plans across the country. The new microgrid will ensure redundancy because the airport will remain connected to the traditional power grid as a backup.

For the university, the 20-year solar power deal moves it closer to its commitment to be a carbon-neutral campus by 2037. Combining the solar agreement with previously announced plans to purchase power from a hydropower plant to be built on the Allegheny River, at least 38 percent of the university’s electricity will come from local renewable sources by 2023.

The Gaucho Solar development is being built by Sydney, Australia-based Lendlease, which has also developed solar projects in California, Kentucky and Connecticut.

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