PITT Goes Green with a 61-acre Solar Farm

A new 55,000 solar panel farm will provide the Pittsburgh campus with nearly one-fifth of its electricity through a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).

Pitt signed a 20-year agreement with Vesper to purchase all of the electricity produced on the site. Aurora Sharrard, Pitt’s executive director of sustainability, expects it to account for 18 percent of the energy used on the main campus.
The university wants to produce or procure half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and be fully carbon neutral by 2037. Sharrard says the solar project and existing projects will get the main campus to 42% renewable energy.

Sarah Schneider | WESA | November 11, 2022

Photo: The Gaucho Solar project near the Pittsburgh International Airport in the early stages of construction. University of Pittsburgh.

“Vesper Energy is excited to announce the start of construction on the Gaucho Solar project! This project is situated on 61 acres in Allegheny and Beaver counties, Pennsylvania and is planned to reach commercial operation in 2023. Congratulations to all involved!”

Vesper Energy | September 15, 2022
  • The farm will produce 37,500 megawatts of electricity annually.
  • 18% of the Pittsburgh campus’ electricity.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the University by 15,452 metric tons of CO2 per year.
  • Equivalent of removing 3,330 fuel-burning cars from the roads.
  • The solar farm will maintain a pollinator-friendly landscape.
  • Expected to be completed by April of 2023.
  • Source
Pitt-Vesper Gaucho Solar Tour video:

“Electricity consumption at the University, just representative of any organization, represents around 50% of our total greenhouse gas footprint. Cleaning the sources of our electricity and our other energy sources is very important. And so strategies like this partnership with Vesper and otherwise are an important step in that process for what we’re doing at Pitt, but also what organizations and individuals are doing… Solar is a great opportunity, nationally and globally as we transition our energy sources to cleaner options. And so I think you’re gonna start seeing a lot more solar in Pennsylvania.”

Aurora Sharrard, Pitt’s executive director of sustainability
IN OTHER NEWS:

Heat pumps are now mandatory in new homes in Washington State
Washington State will require new homes and apartments to have heat pumps installed from July 2023, the State Building Code Council ruled on Friday. In April, the Council passed a measure requiring that heat pumps be installed in new commercial buildings and large apartment buildings. So this heat pump mandate now covers all residential dwellings, and that makes Washington State a leader in having some of the most robust building codes in the US to require electrical appliances and thus reduce emissions. As of 2020, 56% of Washington residents used electricity for heating, and 37% of residents used natural gas or bottled, tank, or LP gas. The Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act provides $4.5 billion of direct rebates for heat pumps for low and moderate income households under the High Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Act (HEEHRA). A low-income household will receive a rebate that covers the full cost of a heat pump installation for space heating, up to $8,000.

After slow start, Massachusetts sees more interest in incentives to mix solar with farming
A Massachusetts incentive program for projects that blend solar energy and agricultural production shows signs of finally gaining momentum after a slow rollout that has at times frustrated solar developers and farmers alike. In 2018, Massachusetts became the first state to offer financial incentives for “dual-use” or “agrivoltaic” solar projects built above active agricultural land. Since the launch, however, just three projects have gotten up and running. Another eight have qualified for the incentive but not yet been built. In the past, building solar on farmland has generally meant taking fields out of production, replacing crops with solar panels. Dual-use developments, however, call for solar panels built at a significant height above the ground – Massachusetts policies call for a minimum elevation of 10 feet – and spaced farther apart than in conventional arrays. The added space under and around the panel is intended to allow in enough sun to grow crops for harvesting or for animals to graze.

Texas oil and gas agency investigating 5.4 magnitude earthquake in West Texas, the largest in three decades
Inspectors for the Texas Railroad Commission are investigating a 5.4 magnitude earthquake that was recorded west of Pecos near the border of Reeves and Culberson counties on Wednesday, the agency said. The earthquake, confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey, was the largest recorded in the state since 1995 and the third-largest in Texas history, according to the USGS National Earthquake Information Center. Between three and six barrels of salty, polluted water also come up to the surface with every barrel of oil during the fracking process — ancient water that was trapped underground by rock formations. Years of pumping hundreds of millions of gallons of contaminated water per day underground in Texas has coincided with more frequent and more powerful earthquakes in the state: An analysis by The Texas Tribune found that the number of earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude and greater had doubled in 2021 from the previous year. The vast majority of seismicity in the last two decades that’s occurred near Pecos was likely triggered by increased wastewater disposal, a 2021 study by USGS and University of Texas scientists found.

Earthquake: M 5.4 – 38 km WSW of Mentone, Texas
2022-11-16 21:32:44 (UTC) | 31.637°N 103.999°W | 6.9 km depth (4.29 miles)
Map source: https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/tx2022wmmd/map

Fracking Boom Turns Texas into the Earthquake Capital of the U.S.
A state not known for earthquakes has been hit so hard, it’s even poised to overtake California and Alaska. Even after the shale revolution arrived in force a decade ago and oil crews started drilling frantically in the region’s vast Permian Basin, there seemed to be no impact on the land. But then, suddenly, in 2015, there were six earthquakes that topped 3.0 on the Richter scale. And then six again the next year. And then the numbers just exploded: 17 became 78 became 181. And in the first three months of 2022 alone, there were another 59, putting the year on pace to set a fresh record. Lower the threshold to include tiny tremors and the numbers run into the thousands. There’s little doubt that there is a link between the drilling and the jump in seismic activity. Huge quantities of wastewater spew out of wells as the oil gushes out, and injecting that water back into the ground—the cheapest disposal option—puts stress on the Earth’s fault lines. Industry insiders even acknowledge as much. The water is loaded with salt and toxins and sometimes even contains radioactive materials, which makes safe disposal above ground expensive.

Significant back-to-back earthquakes in northern B.C. ‘very likely’ caused by fracking: federal expert
Two significant earthquakes within a week in northeast B.C. were probably triggered by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, according to preliminary information from federal scientists. On Nov. 11, Earthquakes Canada reported a 4.7-magnitude earthquake, 132 kilometres northwest of Fort St. John. That was followed four days later by a 4.6-magnitude quake recorded just a kilometre away from the first seismic event. “There is an active hydraulic fracturing operation nearby,” said Prof. Honn Kao, a research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada. “The likelihood of these two events being induced by industry is very high.”

Huge Methane Leak in Pennsylvania Sparks Fresh Call for Fracking Ban
As Fossil Free Media director Jamie Henn pointed out, Equitrans is the corporation behind the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a fracked gas project pushed by right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and his industry allies in neighboring West Virginia. Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released draft supplemental rules meant to slash methane pollution from oil and gas producers. Thanks to citizen feedback—including public comments submitted by thousands of Pennsylvanians—the proposed regulations are stronger than those unveiled last year by the agency. But as Jean Su of the Center for Biological Diversity points out, “even the best methane reduction plan will be irrelevant if fossil fuels keep expanding.” One of the fastest-growing elements of the fossil fuel industry since the turn of the century has been fracking. “Pervasive fracking across Pennsylvania means that dangerous leaks, which can come during the fracking process itself, transport, or underground storage—apparently the case in Cambria County—pose constant threats to our health and environment,” said Masur.

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