Community College of Allegheny County: PPA Enables 543 kW Solar Installation


Electricity unit costs at the Community College of Allegheny County’s (CCAC) North Campus are the highest among all of its facilities, even though it is the most energy-efficient of CCAC’s campuses, with a site EUI of 56 kBtu/sf. This building is served by a local distribution company that is known for having high rates. Even after bidding out electricity, the college was unable to get prices in line with those at facilities served by other companies. An exploration of solar energy showed that a photovoltaic (PV) array could be cost-effective at this site, but the college did not have the upfront capital to pay for installation, so CCAC worked with the Pennsylvania Solar Center’s G.E.T. Solar program to issue a request for proposals and get guidance on proposal evaluation and power purchase agreement (PPA) negotiations. Only one firm proposed a PPA, showing a savings of about $27,000 per year over existing costs, for a total estimated savings of $750,000 over the life of the agreement with no out-of-pocket costs.

The most time-consuming part of the process involved the legal negotiations, as a PPA was an entirely new concept for the organization. The process, however, opened the administration’s eyes to alternative funding for energy projects. The PV array was paid for and installed by the developer, BAI Group, which continues to maintain it. CCAC has been realizing savings from lower electric rates, and it appears that there will be some reduction in peak demand as well. The array supports 30-40% of CCAC’s North Campus electricity demands. The college’s Board of Trustees chose to allow the developer to retain the RECs to enable greater dollar savings. Although the PV array is not visible from the ground, the multi-level roof makes it visible from many classrooms, offices, and other areas around the campus. This helps maintain preferred aesthetics and creates learning opportunities for students. CCAC’s cash flow from the project has been positive since the system went online.

G.E.T. Solar program

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Financing or paying for a project

Tool type:


Building Type:

Education, College or university, Career or vocational training


Renewable Energy, Solar PV

Aerial view of a buildings with solar panels on the roof