Elon University partners with eight other colleges and universities for large-scale solar facility

The collaboration will allow Elon to make additional progress toward its goal of being carbon neutral by 2037.

Elon University and eight other colleges and universities in North Carolina and Pennsylvania are joining forces to bring an innovative, large-scale solar facility online in western Kentucky. By collaborating on this Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), Davidson College, Dickinson College, Elon University, Haverford College, Lafayette College, Lehigh University, Muhlenberg College, Swarthmore College and Wake Forest University are accessing the benefits of renewable energy through a deal typically only feasible for large customers.

“This project is a significant step in Elon’s journey to carbon neutrality by 2037,” said Janet Williams, vice president for finance and administration and chief financial officer at Elon. “This collaboration will help Elon achieve its sustainability goals, provide educational opportunities to Elon students and facilitate adding a new solar energy facility to the electrical grid in Kentucky.”

Guided by Coho, an ERM Group Company, the institutions are working with NextEra Energy Resources, the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun and a world leader in battery energy storage. The consortium is supporting the Sebree Solar II project through a PPA that entails purchasing energy for 20 years. The Sebree Solar II project is set to begin construction in early 2025 and commence commercial operation by the end of 2026. The solar site is projected to provide enough energy to annually power more than 24,000 homes when complete.

The solar facility will be located near the town of Robards, Kentucky, near the Ohio River. The Sebree Solar II project will offer considerable environmental benefits as the project will annually generate up to 150 megawatts of clean, renewable energy. Over its 30-year lifespan, the solar site will contribute approximately $12 million in additional tax revenue to Henderson County, where the project is located, which can be used for roads, schools and other public services.

While electricity generated by the Sebree Solar II project cannot be transmitted directly to the consortium campuses because of regulatory barriers and distance, the benefits of investing in new additional renewable energy will still be transferred to the schools. Elon University will be paying for an amount of energy equal to 100 percent of the electricity used by its campus. In exchange, Elon University will receive renewable energy credits, which can be used to account for greenhouse gas emissions related to purchased electricity.

Elon is currently developing its next campuswide Sustainability Master Plan, which will guide campus sustainability efforts from 2025 to 2035. This plan will include goals and strategies for a more sustainable campus, including climate action strategies to help Elon achieve carbon neutrality by 2037. The Sebree Solar II project is an integral component of the university’s carbon neutrality strategy.

“We are pleased to work with Elon University and the other institutions to help them achieve their sustainability goals,” said Anthony Pedroni, vice president, renewable development and M&A NextEra Energy Resources. “This solar energy project will generate homegrown energy and provide millions of dollars in additional tax revenue to Henderson County over the life of the project.”

The institutions in the cohort will also receive access to data from the Sebree Solar II project for classroom use, as well as campus speaking engagements, site visits and student internships.