Solar project to reduce campus greenhouse gas emissions by 600 to 700 tons annually

Author: Olivia Williamson

This story was originally published on March 15, 2023, by the Office of Public Affairs and Communications, authored by Erin Blasko.


Site of the future West Campus Solar Project.

The University of Notre Dame will install a 46,000-square-foot solar array on the west side of campus, along Indiana 933, as part of an ongoing effort to diversify its energy supply and achieve net zero campus carbon emissions by 2050.

The county council voted in favor of the project on Tuesday (March 14), clearing the way for work to begin this summer. Accounting for potential supply chain issues, the timeline for completion is one to two years.

The facility will sit on open land near the northeast corner of 933 and Dorr Road, behind WNDU studios.

As a clean, renewable source of energy, the project will provide about 1 percent of the electricity for campus while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 600 to 700 tons annually. That’s equivalent to removing between 117 and 137 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles from the road.

The project, including access drives and a 6-foot security fence, will occupy about half the site. The other half will remain open space, with a mix of pollinator-friendly and native plants. Plans call for 2 square feet of plantings per 1 square foot of panels in compliance with local zoning.

The panels will produce minimal glare thanks to an anti-reflective coating. Traffic along 933 will not be impacted.

“The West Campus Solar Project will provide another renewable energy resource for campus along with the recently completed hydro facility in downtown South Bend, reducing the campus carbon footprint and providing added energy reliability and resilience,” said Paul Kempf, assistant vice president for utilities and maintenance at Notre Dame. “We further hope that this project provides a visible reminder to all that pass by of both the University’s and the community’s commitment to combating climate change.”

"Decarbonization is not easy, but Notre Dame is taking genuine steps toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which sit at the center of climate change.”

Geory Kurtzhals, senior director of sustainability at Notre Dame, said, “This solar project represents yet another stop that Notre Dame is taking toward sustainability. Fuel switching to renewable resources represents real progress on a pathway toward meeting our carbon neutrality commitment. Decarbonization is not easy, but Notre Dame is taking genuine steps toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which sit at the center of climate change.”

Notre Dame currently gets about 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, including a joint solar project with Indiana Michigan Power and a newly completed hydroelectric facility. It has three geothermal systems for heating and cooling with a fourth in the works. And it converts a portion of its food waste to energy in collaboration with a local dairy. 

The University stopped burning coal in favor of cleaner-burning natural gas one year ahead of schedule in 2019.

Consistent with its Catholic mission and values and Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on climate change, Notre Dame subscribes to a vision and practice of sustainability that combines care for the natural environment with respect for long-term economic and social justice.