Stanford University is flipping the switch on a 88MW solar array this week, marking a major milestone toward its goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

From pv magazine USA

The solar generating station that went online this week will bring Stanford University to an 80% reduction in campus greenhouse gas emissions, as part of a complete overhaul of the university’s entire energy system, and it brings the university to 100% renewable electricity.

This milestone of 100% renewable electricity is a major step toward our goal of net zero emissions by 2050.  Stanford has worked to transform its campus into a living laboratory for environmental action and aims to model sustainability across all aspects of campus life.  Lincoln Bleveans, executive director of sustainability and energy management expressed hope that these efforts will also provide insights that help other universities, jurisdictions and entities looking to transition to a zero-carbon future.

The 67MW Stanford Solar Generating Station No. 1 in Rosamond, California, went online in 2016. In 2017, 5MW was installed on rooftops on campus. And the Stanford Solar Generating Station No. 2, which went online this week, is an 88MW array near Lemoore, California, through a power purchase agreement with Recurrent Energy.

Stanford embarked on this path in the 1980s, when it implemented net metering on its facilities for the purpose of understanding how and where energy was being used. In 2009, the university released its long-range energy and climate action plan. That plan is now in its third edition and includes high-efficiency standards for new buildings, continued efficiency improvements for existing buildings, and the cutting-edge energy supply system known as the Stanford Energy System Innovations (SESI) project.

SESI moved the university from a 100% fossil-fuel-based combined heat and power plant to grid-sourced electricity and a more efficient electric heat recovery system. SESI uses the technology roadmap for building heating and cooling recommended by the International Energy Agency, which the United Nations Environment Programme also recently discussed in a comprehensive report for district-level implementation.

Stanford was recognized in 2021 as one of only 11 US universities to achieve the “platinum” rating and is the top-ranked doctoral university in the “energy” category in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) 2021 Sustainable Campus Index. It has also taken further steps as it transitions to clean energy.

It was the first US college or university to issue bonds carrying dual climate and sustainability designations for financing campus construction and renovation projects in 2021 ($375 million). And the school has a goal of zero waste by 2030, which is defined as 90% diversion of waste away from the landfill.

The current diversion rate is approximately 67%, of which waste is composted, reused, or recycled. In addition, Stanford has implemented a water conservation plan that reduced total campus potable water use by 48% since the program began in 2001.