Electricity began flowing last month from the UVA Hollyfield Solar facility, an innovative partnership between the University of Virginia, the Darden School of Business and Dominion Energy.
Under the agreement reached last year, the University and Darden are purchasing the entire output of electricity produced at the 160-acre solar facility in King William County – about a 90-minute drive from the Rotunda – for the next 25 years.
The UVA Hollyfield Solar project, which is owned and operated by Dominion Energy, is expected to produce an estimated 17 megawatts of alternating current, a figure representing about 12 percent of the University’s electric demand. The Darden School, a participant in the partnership, is assuming responsibility for about 25 percent of the electricity production, which enables the school to achieve its long-term zero-carbon goal.
“Nearly 10 years ago, Darden established a vision to become a carbon-neutral enterprise by 2020, and with the UVA Hollyfield Solar project now delivering electricity to the grid, the school has achieved that goal,” Mike Lenox, Darden’s senior associate dean and chief strategy officer, said. “By realizing this bold vision, Darden is now one of the only top-ranked business schools in the United States to reach carbon neutrality and proud of its role catalyzing a solar project that is leading Virginia’s transition to a clean energy future.”
Dominion Energy acquired the Hollyfield Solar project as a development asset. The facility features approximately 65,000 solar panels, enough to power about 4,250 homes at peak output.
“When the Board of Visitors passed a resolution in 2011 to reduce the University’s greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent below 2009 levels by 2025, we weren’t sure how we would actually achieve that goal,” Colette Sheehy, the University’s senior vice president for operations, said. “We had confidence, however, that strategies and new technology would develop over time. The Hollyfield and Puller agreements with Dominion Energy represent a key strategy that will enable the University to meet the goal set by the board.”
The agreements show that UVA is a leader in sustainable energy.
“Commitments like these are critical to the expansion of renewable energy generation in Virginia,” Cheryl Gomez, the University’s director of operations, said. “Moreover, it demonstrates UVA’s leadership, joining the ranks of Microsoft and the United States Navy in committing to decreasing the use of fossil fuels and expanding the use of renewable energy in Virginia.”
The UVA Hollyfield Solar project is one of several solar projects in which the University is involved.
The University also has contracted, under a 25-year agreement, to purchase the output of Dominion Energy’s Puller Solar facility, a 120-acre solar farm in Middlesex County that will feature approximately 58,800 panels, enough to power about 3,750 homes at peak output. The facility is scheduled to be online in November. Dominion Energy owns and is constructing the solar facility, which will produce an estimated 15 megawatts of alternating current, or about 9 percent of the University’s electric demand.
The University also will be able to use the system for student and faculty research, and to raise awareness about renewable energy.
The University also has its own solar project supplying electricity to Clemons Library. Since February 2017, 324 solar panels, totaling about 7,530 square feet, installed on the library’s roof, have been producing what will amount to about 199,600 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. This accounts for about 15 percent of the library’s annual electric draw.