Catawba College Makes Good on Climate Commitment

SALISBURY, N.C. — Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C. is embarking on a landmark solar energy project. When completed, the school’s new photovoltaic installation will be the largest solar energy project in the southeastern U.S., contributing to Catawba’s Green Step Initiative, which aims to achieve campus-wide carbon neutrality by 2030. Work on the project officially began in January and will be fully implemented later this spring.

“We believe this one megawatt installation will be the largest such undertaking by any higher education institution in the state of North Carolina,” said Catawba President Brien Lewis in a statement, “It will yield significant long-term benefits for the college.”

Innovative Design of Raleigh, N.C. is leading the project, while Sundance Power Systems of Weaverville, N.C. is serving as its solar developer.

The $5.2 million project will include the installation of numerous photovoltaic panels, as well as roof work on several buildings and the replacement of outdated, inefficient plumbing fixtures. These combined efforts are projected to save the private, 1,300-student college 11 percent on energy costs and 26 percent on water costs annually when compared with pre-installation and renovation figures. The capacity of the solar installations, located on eight buildings and a covered parking area, will rank as the second largest campus installation of solar energy in the southeast.

“Catawba College’s systems…will produce more solar-generated electricity than all other North Carolina colleges and universities combined,” said Mike Nicklas, president Innovative Design and the college’s consultant for the 2030 Green Step Initiative, in a statement. “The combination of those efforts over the next 20 years will save the college close to $5 million.”

While a large portion of the project will be funded through donations, the remainder is being supported by investors who are able to realize substantial tax credits for solar energy and who will, once the tax credits expire in a few years, donate the systems to the college, according to a statement by Catawba College.

Catawba is also a signatory of the American Colleges & Universities Presidents’ Climate Commitment of 2007.

“My hope is that our aggressive efforts to reduce energy consumption from non-renewable energy by 12 percent will serve as a wonderful example to others,” Lewis said in a statement. “The 2030 Green Step Initiative not only contributes to addressing climate change but it will yield significant financial and educational benefits for the College for decades to come. We are saying to our students and to those in our community that we don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk.”