Over the past three years, the University at Buffalo has reduced its carbon footprint by an average of 33% (as measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents) by replacing 671,594,561 kilowatt hours of electricity to renewable sources. Our success is a result of outstanding operational management and responsible energy use by members of the UB community.
UB is committed to green power alternatives, as evidenced by our two on campus solar installations, our 4.5 megawatt off campus installation Steel Winds project in Buffalo, our current Localizing Buffalo's Renewable Energy Future initiative and the purchasing of 100% of electricity consumption through renewable energy credits.
Through our operations, academics, and extracurricular activities, our University has built partnerships to increase engagement and infrastructure in renewable energy.
UB currently generates more than 400,000 kWh of solar energy onsite from the Solar Strand and Norton Hall, and expect more solar panels soon from our REV initiatives.
The university’s clean energy efforts began nearly 15 years ago when it constructed the Norton Solar Rooftop, which became the largest solar array on any building in Western New York at the time. The 6,300 square foot solar system had a peak output of 73.5 kilowatts with annual energy production initially expected to reach 73,100 kilowatt hours or about enough to power the electrical requirements of 10 average Western New York Households. In conjunction with the new solar roof, UB also launched, Energy for the Future, a major educational exhibit about energy alternatives, and a solar lounge with computer-run graphical displays, where a wall of windows provides a close-up view of the photovoltaic roof.
From this early learning, the university realized it needed a new model to achieve the type of scaling and financing to increase impact. In late 2015, conversations ensued with BQ energy about the potential to enter into a remote net metering agreement (similar to a power purchase agreement). The perspective deal would enable the university to be the sole off-taker of a newly constructed 4.5 megawatt solar facility that would be installed on a brownfield site at the former Bethlehem Steel facility in Lackawanna, NY (less than 10 miles from the University). BQ Energy would own and maintain the facility and the University would not be responsible for any capital for the project.
In return, the university would buy all of the electricity produced (at an agreed upon price) for the term of the contract—25 years. Based on a third party financial analysis, it was projected that the university will save approximately $7M over the life of the project compared to what it would have paid for the same amount of grid purchased electricity.
The solar array was constructed through much of 2016 and when finished contained 13,000 ground-mounted solar panels and covers approximately 25 acres (equivalent to about 70 tennis courts). The facility did its first test in December of 2016 and went online around January 1, 2017 supplying renewable solar electricity to the university.
The 3,200-panel photovoltaic array stands at the main entrance to UB's North Campus and provides a striking but practical campus gateway. The 750-kilowatt Solar Strand generates enough clean, renewable power to help avoid the emission of nearly 400 tons of harmful greenhouse gases every year.
The GRoW (Garden, Relax, or Work) Home is the University at Buffalo’s entry into the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2015. It is an international competition held every two years where 20 collegiate teams are invited from around the world to design, build, operate, and market an ultra-efficient home.