Since ASU is in a desert environment that gets over 300 days of sun per year, it has made large strides in utilizing solar energy. Of course, the upfront cost of panels can be quite a burden. In comes the ingenious solution: A Solar Power Purchasing Agreement (SPPA). Essentially, a third party provider agrees to install a solar power system so long as the customer in question agrees to lock in to a contract paying a flat electricity cost over the life of 30 years. In ASU’s case, by the end of the 30 year period of paying the third party energy costs, the solar grid becomes the property of ASU.
The pursuit for solar energy at the school began in 2004 and by 2012, just 8 years later, “ASU [is planning] to have solar PV systems operating on all four campuses for a total capacity of nearly 16 MWdc, the largest university solar portfolio in the U.S.” The school already generates nearly as much. Most of the solar panels are on top of parking structures so they are out of the way and break up the monotony of the concrete. The school’s solar leap is an excellent example of using good business practices and cutting edge electrical engineering to make an intelligent, cost-effective, and renewable energy grid.
Hopefully, many schools will follow this example, using renewable strategies that fit their climate and their disposition. It seems easy to do, and is. Use a SPPA, and after 30 years, the institution owns the rights to the infrastructure. In this way, the upfront costs (the main hindrance to any intelligently designed system) are virtually eliminated.
To me, this seems like “the way”. So my question to you is why aren’t SPPAs more widely used? What is a more effective way to make solar panels, PVs, and systems more widely available?
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