WATCH: Vanderbilt’s forward-thinking approach to large-scale renewable energy

Vanderbilt is taking major steps forward in its sustainability goals. The Vanderbilt I Solar Farm in Bedford County, Tennessee, will mitigate approximately 70 percent of the university’s annual indirect greenhouse gas emissions. A planned second solar farm in Moore County, Tennessee, will supply enough renewable energy to mitigate the remaining 30 percent of emissions. 

Vanderbilt is a leader in developing ways to combat climate change through public-private partnerships—a model of innovation for other institutions. These solar farms were the result of a pioneering Green Invest partnership of Vanderbilt, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Nashville Electric Service in 2020 and a collaboration with Nashville-based Silicon Ranch.  

That model is what makes the Green Invest program unique. “We didn’t do some bespoke, private arrangement with TVA and NES to meet our energy needs,” Vice Chancellor for Administration Eric Kopstain explained. “We created a program that’s flexible and scalable and that other entities across the region can use. Every time I hear about another large employer in the TVA region taking advantage of the Green Invest program, frankly, I am very, very proud.” 

Vanderbilt has collaborated with Nashville-based Silicon Ranch to construct the Vanderbilt I Solar Farm and the future Coffee County facility. Silicon Ranch is funding both projects and will also own, operate and maintain the Vanderbilt I Solar Farm, a disciplined approach the company takes with every project it develops. There will also be engagement opportunities for students and faculty to learn more about solar energy.