Solar Partnership Wins Global Sustainability Award

The collaborative renewable energy project between Muhlenberg College and three other Pennsylvania institutions has been announced as the recipient of AASHE's 2020 Campus Sustainability Achievement Award.

By: Kristine Yahna Todaro  Thursday, December 3, 2020 02:49 PM

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The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) announced today that a Solar Project Collaboration by four Pennsylvania institutions—Muhlenberg College, Dickinson College, Lafayette College and Lehigh University—is a 2020 AASHE Sustainability Award winner

AASHE’s annual Sustainability Awards recognize outstanding achievements and progress toward environmental, social and economic health. The organization bestows its prestigious awards on the institutions and individuals that are leading higher education to a sustainable future. 

"Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time," says Muhlenberg College President Kathleen Harring. "This collaborative solar energy project illustrates how institutions can work together to create an important and extraordinary environmental impact. I'm proud that Muhlenberg's committed staff, faculty and students took the lead in this initiative which, along with our other environmental efforts, enables our campus to have a carbon-neutral electricity footprint for the first time.”  

AASHE named 11 winners, and one honorable mention, from 450 submissions across four award categories this year.  Entries were judged on overall impact, innovation, stakeholder involvement, clarity and other criteria specific to each category. The project was announced as the 2020 Campus Sustainability Achievement Award recipient for Institutions with under 10,000 FTE Enrollment during AASHE's live awards ceremony on December 3.

In February, the four Pennsylvania colleges signed a 15-year virtual power-purchase agreement to buy renewable energy that will be generated by a newly constructed 200+ acre solar farm located in Texas. Together, they plan to purchase the largest amount of solar power of any group of independent higher education institutions in the nation. They also represent the first group of colleges and universities in Pennsylvania to enter into a power purchasing agreement.

Combined with other carbon neutrality efforts, the partnership enables all four institutions to mitigate 100 percent of their emissions associated with electricity usage while balancing cost, risk, environmental impact and other strategic benefits. 

“I am thrilled that Muhlenberg has been recognized for this innovative and groundbreaking approach to eliminating a significant portion of our overall carbon footprint," says Kalyna Procyk, who heads up the College's sustainability efforts. "We're proud that our project will add new renewable energy to the grid and, with this award, inspire others to follow our lead.”

Collectively, the group’s 45.9-megawatt share of the project is anticipated to help prevent over 70,000 metric tons of carbon emissions each year, which is equivalent to removing over 15,000 cars from the road or the amount of carbon sequestered by nearly 85,000 acres of forest.      

The institutions began collaborating in pursuit of a renewable energy project in January 2019, aiming to advance sustainability interests among premier academic institutions in Pennsylvania and serve as an example of how a mix of mid-sized and small institutions can aggregate together to leverage greater purchasing power. 

In addition, for the second year in a row, Muhlenberg has received a STARS Gold Rating for Sustainability Achievements from AASHE, the highest level of recognition received by any Lehigh Valley higher education institution, for five overall areas: academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration and innovation and leadership. 

The College was also recognized as a top performer in AASHE’s 2020 Sustainable Campus Index for water conservation. Muhlenberg tied fourth in the nation, receiving a score of 100 percent for best practices in water conservation for the second year in a row.

The AASHE Sustainability Awards provide global recognition to the individuals and organizations leading the higher education sustainability movement. To date, nearly 110 winners have been recognized through this prestigious award program since its inception in 2006. Learn more at https://www.aashe.org/get-involved/awards/ 

About Muhlenberg College
Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year residential, liberal arts college offering baccalaureate and graduate programs. With an enrollment of approximately 2,200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences; selected preprofessional programs, including accounting, business, education and public health; and progressive workforce-focused post-baccalaureate certificates and master’s degrees. Located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, approximately 90 miles west of New York City, Muhlenberg is a member of the Centennial Conference, competing in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.