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From coast to coast, colleges and universities have increased their energy efficiency exponentially throughout the years. Recently, we see bigger projects being undertaken. These projects are important in the renewable energy field because not only is it helping increase their facilities energy efficiency and decreasing their carbon footprint, but it also allows the leaders of the future to experience and learn about clean energy.

California is home to many schools who have been converting to solar and allowing the push for clean energy to continue. The University of California, Merced is one school who has recently taken on their second big project. According to Parking Network, They first started with a “1-megawatt ground-mounted tracker system has been in operation and exceeding performance expectations since 2009”. Now that they have had such success, their plans for 2020 are substantially more ambitious. They plan on installing a 5-megawatt solar power system with an added 500-kilowatt battery energy storage. Parking Network estimates that the two systems combined will be able to power more than 50% of the campus’s annual energy needs and will  generate clean electricity equivalent to removing 30,000 cars from the road every year for 25 years.

The University of Virginia is another school that is determined to use renewable energy to better their facilities and the environment. UVA Today explains the many strides the university has taken and will take to further solar energy. The university has backed many solar farms before, and now, Under a 25-year agreement, they will purchase the entire output of a proposed 120-acre solar facility which will produce 15 megawatts of AC, or about 9 percent of the University’s electric demand. Remarkably, the solar facility will allow the University to reduce its carbon output by 15,000 metric tons a year and its nitrogen output by 19 metric tons, and even more, they plan to continue to decrease these numbers.

Schools of higher education in the Northeast have also been a part of this industry growth. Last year, Hampshire College had proposed to go 100% solar. They already have multiple systems up and running and want to go as big as they can with renewable energy. Mass Live recently reported that they have completed the installation of 19 acres of solar arrays on campus in a deal that promises to save $400,000 annual in electrical costs. They still have a long way to go but have certainly set the bar high for other schools in the area.

It is inspiring to see places of higher education set a precedent for the nation. These schools have done so much to commit to clean energy, which not only benefits them financially but also benefits the environment in the communities around them. Perhaps the greatest outcome of all is that it allows students to see the benefits of solar power first hand, which is a tool they can use to better the energy sector in the years to come.