About two-thirds of electricity powering Johns Hopkins University campuses across Maryland will come from a Virginia solar farm starting in 2021.
The university announced a deal Monday to buy about 250,000 megawatt-hours of electricity from the project each year for 15 years.
Officials said they considered different solar, wind and hydroelectric projects to meet a goal to reduce the university’s carbon footprint by 51 percent from 2008 levels by 2025. They chose the Virginia solar project because it “demonstrates the seriousness of our commitment to sustainability for the good of our university and our planet,” university President Ronald J. Daniels said in a statement.
The project would make the university one of the largest users of “green” energy among higher education institutions in the United States, according to Environmental Protection Agency data. Hopkins’ deal would rank it second behind the University of California system for its use of clean energy, based on kilowatt hours used annually, according to the EPA.
The solar power would go towards electricity consumption at Hopkins’ Homewood campus, Peabody Institute, School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore; Hopkins offices in Hampden and Mount Washington; the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel; and the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Neither officials at Hopkins nor at Constellation, the Baltimore energy company through which the university is buying the power, would say who is developing the project, where it will be located or how many acres it will span. Hopkins officials also declined to answer questions about the financial terms of the deal.
The project site is currently home to a commercial timber operation, said Julian Goresko, the university’s director of sustainability. Goresko said he didn’t know how much of the project land is forested currently, but said when the solar panels are installed, they will cover about 65% of the land, leaving 35% forested.
Georgetown University recently faced criticism for plans to power its campus with a 100,000-panel solar farm in a wooded area of Charles County, near La Plata, that is considered valuable habitat for many bird species that depend on dense, contiguous forest. The Maryland Public Service Commission approved the project last year, but state environmental officials held a hearing in February to take residents’ and environmentalists’ concerns into account as the project proceeds through other permitting processes.
The Hopkins-sponsored project would be capable of generating more than five times more power than the Georgetown solar farm.