American University Installing Largest Urban Solar Hot Water System on East Coast

As part of its commitment to become carbon neutral by 2020, American University is installing the largest urban solar hot water system on the east coast.

174 solar thermal units will be installed on four campus buildings by July, providing hot showers to over 2,000 students living on campus and hot water to the university’s largest dining hall. Skyline Innovations, a local solar energy company, is providing the system.

Also by July, American will have installed about 2,150 solar PV panels on six buildings, providing 534 kW.  A 27 kW system currently produces electricity on the roof of the LEED Gold certified School of International Service building.

"We are also exploring other ways to develop larger scale renewable energy sources in the Washington region, so stay tuned," says Chris O’Brien, director of sustainability at American University.

Last spring, American University announced plans to become a carbon-neutral campus by 2020.  The university is reducing energy consumption, using wind power for 100% of its purchased electricity, and planning to mitigate university travel emissions by supporting carbon offset projects this year. They’re installing a generator that runs on used cooking oil from the campus dining hall.

The projects are financed through power purchase agreements with Washington Gas Energy Services and Skyline Innovations, each of which owns and installs its respective system, and sells the resulting energy to American University through long term contracts for 20 and 10 years respectively.

AU’s sustainability programs are earning increased recognition. American University earned a STARS gold rating in January from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System developed by representatives from colleges and universities, higher education associations, related nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government agencies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) honored AU as one of the top colleges in its 2010-2011 College and University Green Power Challenge and Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges also included AU.

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