Southeastern Section - 64th Annual Meeting (19–20 March 2015)

Paper No. 20
Presentation Time: 1:00 PM-5:00 PM


NELSON, Stephen M., Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Hwy, Greenville, SC 29613 and RANSON, William A., Earth and Environmental Sciences, Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Highway, Greenville, SC 29613,

In 2007 then Furman University President David Shi signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment, which pledged Furman to reach carbon neutrality by 2026. Expansion of renewable energy is a major area of focus in Furman’s Climate Action Plan, and recent South Carolina legislation has lifted Furman’s net metering cap, creating new opportunities. This project investigates the feasibility of solar-generated electricity on campus through both a scientific and economic lens. Amongst the proposals that we examined are development of a 5-7 megawatt solar farm on the former W.R. Grace property adjacent to campus, expansion of existing on-campus rooftop solar facilities to a total of 366.5 kilowatts, and potential for several megawatts of parking lot solar. These projects are compared financially with the undesirable outcome of purchasing renewable energy certificates (RECs) on the open market starting in 2026 in addition to Furman’s projected energy costs. We believe these RECs will be more expensive in the long term than a Furman-owned solar facility. Multiple methods of financing these facilities were found, including outright purchase, leasing systems with Duke Energy, and involvement of third-party investors to capitalize projects. Using this financial analysis and an evaluation of solar energy in SC and worldwide, we find the third-party investment strategy to be the most viable. We suggest that solar development of the former W.R. Grace Property and Timmons Arena should be approved to take advantage of the current tax and legislative climate. Further rooftop and parking lot development should also be considered, though they feature a longer period of return on the investment. Rooftop systems and parking canopies are expected to cost approximately $6.50 and $8.50 per watt installed, respectively, though rates and government incentives are rapidly changing. These models are subject to future changes in SC legislation, particularly the net metering price rates set by the Public Service Commission, which is still pending. It is hoped that one or more of these proposals will be found viable and approved, furthering Furman’s commitment to sustainability.