Stanford Going To 100% Renewable Electricity

September 19, 2021
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Universities are suppose to be the homes of our best and brightest. (Don’t look here.) They are supposed to be about the long-term view. They are supposed to be about science, of course. So, I have to admit that I’m surprised and disappointed to find out that no research institute in the US is getting 100% of its electricity needs from renewable energy sources. Though, next year, there will be one. (Note that the University of Queensland in Australia is already at 100% renewables, and some other universities outside the USA may have achieved this goal already too.)

I am not surprised to find out that the first university to announce such a target is Stanford University, which sits in the heart of Silicon Valley. The good news, too, is that the target for achieving 100% renewable electricity is next summer, 2022. And this is even after the university had a solar farm burn down.

As the title points out, Stanford won’t just be getting 100% of its electricity needs from renewables; it’ll be getting 100% from solar. That said, at this point, it’s more of a case of generating as much electricity from solar overall as the university uses, not entirely at the time it is needed. So, it’s net 100% solar. Though, there are also talks about adding battery energy storage capacity to improve on that.

The Stanford Daily provides further history on Stanford’s history with solar power and potential battery boost: “The University’s early solar installations consisted of 5-megawatt rooftop solar panels in 2015 and its first solar generating station in 2016. Stanford Solar Generating Station #1, near Rosamond, Calif., produces 67 megawatts of solar-generated electricity, covering 65% of Stanford’s daytime electricity needs. Stanford signed a contract with Recurrent Energy — a company dedicated to providing clean electricity through solar panels — in 2018 to create its second solar generating station in Kings County. This addition will cover the rest of their electricity needs, according to Land, Buildings and Real Estate vice president Robert Reidy. The University’s power purchase agreement with Recurrent Energy will be in effect for the next 35 years.

“Recurrent Energy proposed to add a 50-megawatt battery to store solar energy for Stanford’s night-time electricity needs. “Even though we’re not getting power from our solar at night, we are displacing carbon in the daytime, as if we were getting it at night,” Stagner said. Stanford is considering installing additional roof-top solar panels and adding more battery capacity to cover night-time electricity needs.”

Why solar? It’s the cheapest option.

Stanford actually planned to be “100% solar powered” by the end of this year, but the aforementioned fire burning down a solar farm, the China trade war issues, and COVID-19 related supply chain issues have delayed the target. Hopefully nothing else will jump in and block the summer 2022 target.

What major university will follow? Harvard? Cornell? Princeton? UCLA? Surely not the University of North Carolina …

Shock and embarrassment aside, more universities (UNC-Chapel Hill, ahem) could get some good press, save a lot of money, and, you know, help save the world by going 100% solar as well. There’s actually no good reason not to join Stanford in this energy transition.

And if any staff haven’t gone solar yet, remember that rooftop solar panels can also save individuals thousands of dollars, and they also help to stop global heating. (Feel free to use my Tesla referral code for $100 off if you decide to get solar panels put on your roof by Tesla, or a Tesla Solar Roof itself.)

In a time when drought and fires are crushing the US West, especially California, it seems that everyone with the ability to do so should be going solar at this time — but especially our best and brightest.

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