ASU leads the nation with largest university solar installation

Arizona State University (ASU) has awarded energy contracts to Honeywell Building Systems, Independent Energy Group and SolEquity to install two megawatts of solar electric modules on approximately 135,000 square feet of building rooftop space and some parking structures on its Tempe campus. With this investment ASU reaffirmed its commitment to renewable energy through what will be the largest deployment of solar power infrastructure by any U.S. university.

The solar panels will meet up to 7% of the energy needs for ASU’s Tempe campus. Two megawatts of electricity can run approximately 4,600 computers. There is no up front cost for this installation that will generate approximately $425,000 worth of energy and reduce ASU’s carbon emissions by 2,825 tons per year as compared to traditional energy generation in the state of Arizona. The carbon reduction is equivalent to removing the annual emissions of 523 automobiles.

A study by ASU faculty and students in 2004 identified at least 330,000 square feet of roof space suitable for solar-based electricity generation on the Tempe campus alone. Due to the unprecedented expansion of new construction during the past few years, the roof space available for solar panels is now significantly larger. ASU’s solar energy plan now calls for the installation of up to seven megawatts on the Tempe campus with additional installations on ASU’s other campuses over the next several years.

“These large-scale solar installations demonstrate ASU’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality through on-site renewable energy generation coupled with extensive investment in energy efficiency and conservation” stated ASU President Michael Crow. “Long-term, ASU’s integrated research programs and business practices seek to transition energy markets away from fossil fuels toward advanced technologies that are economically competitive and environmentally benign.” Crow serves as chairman of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, an organization with nearly 600 signatories to date that is dedicated to carbon neutrality.

Under this new agreement, ASU contracts to purchase the power generated on its rooftops at a set price for fifteen years. The pricing takes advantage of federal and state tax credits as well as incentive payments provided by Arizona Public Service as authorized by the Arizona Corporation Commission’s Renewable Energy Standard Portfolio.

"I congratulate Dr. Crow and ASU for establishing the university as the national solar leader. Two megawatts of new distributed solar energy will help diversify Arizona’s energy system, clean our environment and accelerate the growth of a solar energy industry in the state. These are the same objectives sought by the Corporation Commission when it passed the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard in 2006," said Commissioner Kris Mayes of the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Carol Campbell, ASU’s executive vice president and chief financial officer commented that this deployment illustrates ASU’s aggressive moves to adopt sustainable practices throughout the university’s four campuses – including water and energy conservation, use of sustainable materials in
all facilities, minimizing waste generation, and recycling.

“This investment decision together with the recent awards of six significant solar energy research and development grants from the U.S. Department of Energy confirm that ASU has become a recognized national leader in solar energy,” states Jonathan Fink, director of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, the hub for the university’s sustainability initiatives. “In addition, by requiring that the installations include the ability to collect, analyze, and display their performance data, the university is assuring that students, staff and the public at large will be able to track the amount of energy generated and used. As such, the system is a synergistic merging of research, economic development and education,” added Fink.

This announcement follows the recent decision by Arizona Public Service to build the largest solar thermal plant in the country.

“For the Sun Devils to become sun users is a sound business decision,” said APS Renewable Energy Manager, Barbara Lockwood. “Importantly, ASU’s leadership will have an impact on other large Arizona
institutions and businesses considering similar installations. The more renewable energy customers produce, the better APS can manage the extraordinary growth in energy usage throughout the state.”
For the past 15 years, ASU has hosted the only photovoltaic testing laboratory in the U.S. “Arizona’s industry, government, universities and the public are all waking up to the fact that we need to better utilize our abundant solar resources in as many ways as possible,” said Fink.

ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability advances sustainability research, education, business practices, and the university's operations, with an emphasis on solutions that are relevant to an urbanizing world. Its first-in-the-nation School of Sustainability offers integrated degree programs that explore and advance practical solutions to environmental, economic, and social challenges. For more information, visit: or

Media Contact:
Karen Leland, 480-965-0013 / [email protected]
Global Institute of Sustainability
Arizona State University

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