Furman University created history roughly a month ago by installing and connecting 2994 solar cells to the electric grid, but they are not done yet as plans to reduce their carbon footprint to neutrality by the year 2026 are already in place. There are, however, a few factors which the university must overcome before that steep goal can be achieved. Let’s now take a look at what the new million dollar solar establishment means for the university and its future plans to go even greener.
The Capacity of the 6-acre Solar Farm Right Now
At its current size of 743 kilowatts, the Furman solar farm is cutting down on the university’s total power bills by 5% and greenhouse emissions have reportedly been reduced by 3%. The numbers may not seem impressive initially, but after considering the 5,500-kW of power, which the Furman University consumes during the summer months, it doesn’t seem too bad either. Also, it’s a huge improvement over the 100-kW power generation to which the farm was limited because of the restrictions previously imposed by the state of South Carolina on solar power production. Soon after the state raised the upper limit to 1-mW in 2014, the institution began planning on expanding and growing their solar power generation capabilities.
A Rebate of $997,000
A portion of the $1.7 million, which was approved by the board in 2016 for the expansion project will be somewhat compensated, once the university receives a rebate of $997,000, as promised by Duke Energy. This is the same company which also conducted the studies that were instrumental in supporting the decision of the Furman solar power farm being connected to the grid. Now that it is finally connected to the grid with net metering, Furman University will also be earning back some of its investments by selling the excess energy back to the power company.
Alternate and Future Expansion Plans
Even without the solar farm, Furman has multiple solar projects in place and they include the following.
- Solar roofing on top of the Lay Physics Activities Center (95 kilowatts)
- Photovoltaic panels at the Shi Center for Sustainability (30 kilowatt)
- Photovoltaic panels just beside the Townes Science Center (12 kilowatt)
- The restructured roof of the Timmons Arena, which can accept a complete solar paneling when required
- Empty land beside the Furman Solar Farm that’s ready to expand as soon as possible
State Laws Might be Hindering Furman’s Plans to Go Greener
In order for Furman University to attain its goal of complete carbon neutrality by 2026, the state of South Carolina will have to increase its maximum limit on on-site solar power generation soon. This limit is currently the biggest obstacle which is restraining the potentials of the university’s multiple other impending solar projects, which could raise its sustainable power production capabilities to even more impressive heights.
Residential and commercial photovoltaic systems are no longer as expensive as they used to be, and thanks to particularly affordable solar roofing rates brought to the public by companies like Semper Solaris, they have actually become a way for homes to save money and experience off-the-grid independence. A respected institution like Furman Universities putting in so much effort and money sets a good example forward for not only other universities in the state, but may also inspire many residents to adopt solar power more readily than before. The university itself hopes that their efforts within the campus will have a long term effect on its students and they will themselves become environmentally responsible citizens in the near future.