June 04, 2024

During a “Powering On” ceremony Monday, the University unveiled its latest advancement toward environmental sustainability – the successful completion of the 7.5 megawatt (MW) West Campus Solar Array. 

Developed in collaboration with Standard Solar, a leading commercial and community solar developer and asset owner based in Rockville, MD, this initiative marks a significant step towards an eco-friendly future for the university and the broader district community. The solar array contributes significantly to the district’s goal of achieving 100% renewable energy by 2032 and carbon neutrality by 2050.

Speakers at the celebration event included Peter Kilpatrick, Catholic University President; Scott Wiater, President & CEO, Standard Solar; Nicole Steele, Senior Advisor for Equity and Workforce at the U.S. Department of Energy, Solar Energy Technologies Office; Jack McDougle, President and CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade; and Steve Farole, President of the Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association (BNCA).

Situated in the heart of Washington, D.C., the West Campus Solar Array will be fully operational this summer. Plans had been in the works to turn part of the little-used 40-acre parcel of land into a parking lot, but instead, it will now host a field of 42 rows of solar panels that provide 10,000 megawatt (MWh) hours of power to the university and the community.

solar dedication
Government officials joined University leadership and Standard Solar for the powering on ceremony of a new the West Campus solar array. (Catholic University/Patrick G. Ryan)

This groundbreaking project underscores the university’s continued commitment to innovative and sustainable energy solutions, positioning it as a leader in renewable energy within the district, the broader D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region and internationally.

“This West Campus solar farm project is not just a renewable energy venture; it’s a testament to The Catholic University of America’s dedication to creating a sustainable future for our nation and world,” said President Peter Kilpatrick, Catholic University. “As we illuminate our campus with clean energy, we also enlighten minds through education and invite the community to join us on this transformative journey toward a greener and more sustainable world.”

solar at dawn
The Solar Array, seen here during dawn earlier this year, has been in development for years. (Catholic University/Patrick G. Ryan)

Key features of the project include:

  • Largest Urban Ground Solar Array: The West Campus Solar Array is the region’s largest urban ground-mount solar array, emphasizing the university’s dedication to pioneering sustainable energy solutions.
  • Environmental Savings: The project is estimated to save 7.115 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, equivalent to removing 1,547 cars from roads annually or eliminating the carbon dioxide emissions from nearly 800,630 gallons of gasoline.
  • Renewable Energy Generation: With a capacity to produce 10,000 MWh of renewable energy annually, the solar facility benefits both the campus and the local community.
  • Energy Equity: The array will also provide clean energy savings to over 1,200 subscribers within the community, benefiting District residents. 
  • Economic Impact: The 20-year projected savings to district subscribers is estimated at $3.5 million, creating economic benefits alongside environmental advantages.

“Undertaking a project of this magnitude in an urban setting presents its challenges, but the potential rewards for the region are immense,” said Scott Wiater, President & CEO, Standard Solar. “The West Campus Solar Array will power the university sustainably and benefit the local community. It’s a true win-win scenario for all involved.”

Scott Wiater, President & CEO,  of Standard Solar, talked about the cherished partnership with Catholic University of America during multiple campus projects. (Catholic University/Patrick G. Ryan)

“Given our university’s location in the heart of Washington, D.C., we are deeply committed to serving as responsible stewards of the Earth,” said Robert Specter, Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer & University Treasurer. “Our aim is to earnestly support the clean energy and energy-efficiency goals advocated by our elected officials.” 

This initiative is already part of the University's comprehensive sustainability plan, as noted in this recent CatholicU magazine article. This plan includes LEED-certified buildings, electric-vehicle charging stations, modern energy infrastructure, and other ecological efforts.

Recognized globally for its sustainability efforts, Catholic University was one of the first universities to sign on to the Laudato Si Action Platform and has been featured in the Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges for four consecutive years.

News coverage of the array included:

View more photos from the event in the slideshow of photos by Patrick G. Ryan below.