On Earth Day 2019, Johns Hopkins University announced a 15-year Solar Agreement with Constellation, an energy supplier headquartered in Baltimore, MD, to procure 250,000 megawatt-hours of clean power annually. The agreement is the largest in the state of Maryland and was the largest among any single university nationally at the time of its signing. Along with demand-side energy management and efficiency investments across the university, the agreement helps JHU successfully meet its goal of reducing the university’s greenhouse gas emissions 51% by 2025 several years ahead of schedule, while also meeting the international targets set by the United Nations Paris Climate Accord to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
In addition to helping JHU meet its climate goals established under the 2008 President’s Task Force on Climate Change, the Solar Agreement supports the development of a new renewable energy facility, known as the Skipjack Solar Center, in Charles City County, Virginia. Located on the land of a previous commercial timber operation, the new solar farm includes over 500,000 solar panels and has a capacity of 175 megawatts, while preserving part of the natural forested land area and ensuring economic benefits to the local community.
The renewable electricity produced by the facility is sold to PJM, a regional transmission organization that operates the county’s largest electricity grid across 13 states, including Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia. As part of the agreement, energy delivered to JHU by Constellation is matched with renewable energy certificates (RECs), which represent the renewable attributes associated with clean energy generated within the U.S. Those RECs will be sourced primarily from the Skipjack Solar Center once the facility begins commercial operation. As a result, over 80% of the university’s total purchased electricity is sourced from renewable energy through the agreement.
The shift to clean energy contributes to reducing JHU’s scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 123,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, equivalent to 14,812 single-family homes’ annual energy use. This alone represents a 41% reduction compared to JHU’s 2008 emissions baseline, and combined with on-campus energy efficiency measures such as improvements to JHU’s buildings and upgrades to central energy generation and distribution systems, the solar agreement allows JHU to meet and even exceed its climate mitigation target.
The construction of the Skipjack Solar Center started in 2020 and is scheduled to begin delivering renewable energy to the grid in the first trimester of 2022. While the construction of the solar farm is not complete, JHU began receiving and retiring RECs, primarily sourced from wind, under its agreement with Constellation in April 2021.