Catholic University of America champions sustainable future with community solar project

Standard Solar Catholic University of America

During a “Powering On” ceremony on June 4, The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., unveiled its latest advancement toward environmental sustainability — the successful completion of the 7.5 MW West Campus Solar Array.

Developed in collaboration with Standard Solar, based in Rockville, Maryland, this initiative marks a significant step toward an eco-friendly future for the university and the broader D.C. community. The solar array contributes significantly to the city’s goal of achieving 100% renewable energy by 2032 and carbon neutrality by 2050.

Speakers at the celebration event included Peter Kilpatrick, Catholic University president; Scott Wiater, president and CEO, Standard Solar; Nicole Steele, senior advisor for equity and workforce at the U.S. Department of Energy, Solar Energy Technologies Office; Jack McDougle, president and CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade; and Steve Farole, president of the Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association (BNCA).

Situated in the heart of Washington, D.C., the West Campus Solar Array will be fully operational this summer. Plans had been in the works to turn part of the little-used 40-acre parcel of land into a parking lot, but instead, it will now host a field of 42 rows of solar panels that provide 10,000 MWh of power to the university and the community.

This groundbreaking project underscores the university’s continued commitment to innovative and sustainable energy solutions, positioning it as a leader in renewable energy within the district, the broader D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region and internationally.

“This West Campus solar farm project is not just a renewable energy venture. It’s a testament to The Catholic University of America’s dedication to creating a sustainable future for our nation and world,” said Kilpatrick. “As we illuminate our campus with clean energy, we also enlighten minds through education and invite the community to join us on this transformative journey toward a greener and more sustainable world.”

Key features of the project include:

  • Largest Urban Ground Solar Array: The West Campus Solar Array is the region’s largest urban ground-mount solar array, emphasizing the university’s dedication to pioneering sustainable energy solutions.
  • Renewable Energy Generation: With a capacity to produce 10,000 MWh of renewable energy annually, the solar facility benefits both the campus and the local community.
  • Energy Equity: The array will also provide clean energy savings to more than 1,200 subscribers within the community, benefiting D.C. residents. 
  • Economic Impact: The 20-year projected savings to district subscribers is estimated at $3.5 million, creating economic benefits alongside environmental advantages.

“Undertaking a project of this magnitude in an urban setting presents its challenges, but the potential rewards for the region are immense,” said Wiater. “The West Campus Solar Array will power the university sustainably and benefit the local community. It’s a true win-win scenario for all involved.”

This initiative is already part of the University’s comprehensive sustainability plan, as noted in a recent CatholicU magazine article. This plan includes LEED-certified buildings, electric-vehicle charging stations, modern energy infrastructure, and other ecological efforts.

“Given our university’s location in the heart of Washington, D.C., we are deeply committed to serving as responsible stewards of the Earth,” said Robert Specter, executive VP, COO and university treasurer. “Our aim is to earnestly support the clean energy and energy-efficiency goals advocated by our elected officials.” 

Recognized globally for its sustainability efforts, Catholic University was one of the first universities to sign on to the Laudato Si Action Platform and has been featured in the Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges for four consecutive years.

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