Solar Partnership Named Finalist for AASHE Sustainability Award

A solar partnership between Lehigh, Lafayette, Muhlenberg and Dickinson is a finalist for AASHE's 2020 Campus Sustainability Achievement Award.

Story by

Lori Friedman

Lehigh's University Center

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) announced that the PA Higher Ed Consortium—made up of Lehigh University, Lafayette College, Muhlenberg College and Dickinson College—is a finalist for a 2020 AASHE Sustainability Award in the Campus Sustainability Achievement category, recognizing outstanding progress in higher education sustainability.

"Lehigh is thrilled to be a finalist for this award along with our partner institutions,” said Katharine Targett Gross, Lehigh’s sustainability officer. “This effort is a great example of the effectiveness of using collaborative agreements to generate positive sustainability outcomes. This will also be a key component of Lehigh's Climate Action Strategy, which is currently in development."

The AASHE Sustainability Awards provide global recognition to the individuals and organizations leading the higher education sustainability movement. With the help of volunteer judges from the community, the awards program raises the visibility of high-impact sustainability projects, pioneering research, and student leadership, helping to disseminate innovations and inspire continued progress toward environmental, social and economic health.

"Lehigh Facilities is proud for the university and its partners to be recognized by AASHE,” said Brent Stringfellow, associate vice president of Lehigh Facilities and university architect. “This project highlights how environmental and operational goals can intersect in a manner that creates tangible benefits for institutions while making progress in sustainable initiatives"

The four schools announced their partnership to purchase renewable energy as a collective in February of this year. 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. Their entry, “Multi-Campus Collaboration Kickstarts Solar Project to Cut Nearly 100% of GHG Emissions from Electricity” is one of five finalists in the award category.

“Climate issues are a critical global challenge,” Lehigh President John D. Simon said when the partnership was announced in February. “This project is one opportunity for Lehigh to demonstrate climate leadership and to energize the campus and broader community. We are proud to partner with other nearby institutions in a project that both advances our sustainability goals and shows the effectiveness of leveraging collaborative agreements.”

Earlier this year, the schools signed a 15-year virtual power purchase agreement to buy renewable energy that will be generated by a newly-constructed 200-plus-acre solar farm in Texas. The new solar farm will be the 12th largest renewable energy project involving higher education institutions, in terms of megawatts. Because it will be built as a result of this purchase, the project will add additional renewable energy to the country's grid.

“The higher education sustainability community continues to stay focused on work that contributes toward a thriving, equitable and ecologically healthy world. This is most evident through the entries received for the AASHE Sustainability Awards,” said Meghan Fay Zahniser, AASHE's executive director. “I am happy that we can recognize the innovation and leadership demonstrated by this year’s finalists.”

Winners will be announced and celebrated during an awards ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, from noon to 1:30 p.m. The outstanding individuals and institutions recognized as finalists were selected based on overall impact, innovation, stakeholder involvement, clarity and other criteria specific to each award category.

To learn more about AASHE’s Sustainability Awards programs, visit http://www.aashe.org/get-involved/awards/.

Story by

Lori Friedman