Gaucho Solar project. Photo by University of Pittsburgh.

The University of Pittsburgh is getting serious about amassing power. Renewable power, specifically. The university has started construction on one of the largest solar projects in the region. It’s called Gaucho Solar and will include 55,000 solar panels on a 68-acre tract in Findlay and Independence townships near Pittsburgh International Airport.

The project is expected to meet 18% of Pitt’s electrical needs for the year. Along with a commitment to use new hydropower projects, more than 42% of the university’s future electricity will come from local, renewable sources.

Once operational, the Gaucho Solar project is projected to produce more than 35,700 megawatt-hours of electricity annually. It will lower Pitt’s greenhouse gas emissions by 15,452 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent of taking nearly 3,330 fuel burning cars off the road.

Vesper Energy of Texas is constructing the solar array, and Pitt will receive 100% of the energy created for the next 20 years.

Gaucho Solar project. Photo courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh.

The Gaucho Solar project is expected to save Pitt millions of dollars; it requires no upfront capital or maintenance costs for the university and gives Pitt price certainty throughout the contract.

“The University of Pittsburgh is fully committed to achieving carbon neutrality for our Pittsburgh campus by 2037, with local, renewable energy getting us one-third of the way there,” says Aurora Sharrard, executive director of Sustainability at the University of Pittsburgh.

The project is expected to begin generating renewable electricity by the middle of next year. The Gaucho Solar site will also include pollinator-friendly landscaping and an observation area for students to study the project.

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.