Vanderbilt University reaches deal on renewable energy push

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt University announced a renewable energy deal Wednesday aimed at offsetting a portion of the school's greenhouse gas emissions.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, Nashville Electric Service and Silicon Ranch are partnering with Vanderbilt on a 20-year agreement to reduce the annual equivalent of almost 7,000 cars driven or 5,000 homes powered. That equals about 70 percent of Vanderbilt’s annual indirect greenhouse gas emissions from purchased electricity, the university said.

The deal includes a new 35-megawatt solar installment in Bedford County planned to be on line in fall 2022, pending environmental review. Silicon Ranch, the solar firm tasked with building and running the installment, was founded by former Gov. Phil Bredesen and is the U.S. solar platform for Shell.

Vanderbilt has announced a goal to run its campus entirely through renewable energy and become carbon neutral by 2050.

“This agreement is one of the largest single steps we can take to reduce our carbon emissions footprint and demonstrates that Vanderbilt is an incubator for solutions of regional, national and global issues,” Vanderbilt Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente said in a news release Wednesday.

TVA said the partnership is the first of its kind under its new Green Invest program, which is now offered to local power companies and business customers in parts of the seven Southeastern states that the federal utility serves.

The program is modeled after TVA renewable energy deals in 2018 for regional Facebook and Google data centers, the utility said.

Stephen Smith, executive director of the renewable energy advocacy group Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, commended Vanderbilt's commitment but criticized TVA. He said the utility focuses too heavily on long-term individual contracts with companies.