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Solar Photovoltaics generate electricity using energy from the sun. The three most common solar installations for a campus environment are: ground-mount, roof-top and carport. Additional solar technologies are continuing to emerge (e.g. thin-film, roof-integrated, building facade, window glazings, etc.) Each installation type has a unique combination of technical considerations and environmental and economic benefits. Recent downward price trends for solar technologies has made solar photovoltaics cost competitive with other electricity generation sources.


  • Visible commitment to sustainability
  • Can provide economic benefits by reducing peak electric demand charges
  • Solar panels have a lifespan of 25 years with very low operating expense


  • Need a significant surface area to cover a meaningful portion of energy demand
  • Requires an up-front capital investment or a long-term contract with a third-party developer
  • Optimal economic performance is achieved through tax incentives which require a tax-equity partner, since universities are typically tax-exempt
  • Certain types of panels contain toxic chemicals and require special disposal techniques at end-of-life
Solar Photovoltaics


  • GHG Impact


    The scale of on-site solar is often too small to make significant emission reductions.

  • Economic Impact


    Varies due to quality of solar resource, cost of grid energy and amount of solar installed.

  • Feasibility

    Some Challenges

    Solar is now a mature technology with a robust ecosystem of technologies and developers.

  • Timeline

    1-2 years

    Site permitting, system design and financing are often time-consuming.

  • Maintenance

    Low / None

    Once installed, PV projects require very little maintenance.

  • Publicity

    That's really cool

    Solar is sexy.

Lafayette’s Onsite Solar Power Purchase Agreement

Lafayette College constructed a rooftop solar array on the Kirby Sports Center which provides 540 megawatt-hours (MWh) of renewable energy annually. The electricity will avoid 9,625 MTCO2 over its 25-year lifetime.

Michigan State University Solar Carport Power Purchase Agreement

Michigan State University constructed a solar carport that will generate 10.5 MW electricity, achieve energy cost savings, and protect parked cars from heat, rain, and snow. They financed this project through a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement. MSU is projected to save approximately $10 million in electricity cost savings over the project lifetime.