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PPA Renewable Energy Research Program

Supporting proposals for research and workforce development projects, funded by the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between the University of Pennsylvania and energy company AES

As part of its commitment to a carbon-neutral campus by 2042, the University of Pennsylvania entered into a power purchase agreement (PPA) with energy company AES to develop solar arrays that would generate enough energy to fulfill 70% of the campus and health system electricity needs. Under the PPA, AES is generously supporting related educational efforts at Penn through a grant program run by the Environmental Innovations Initiative (EII) in the Office of the Provost.

The solar project, located on 1,600 acres in Fulton and Franklin counties in central Pennsylvania, makes up the largest solar project in the state. The site itself presents opportunities for field- or data-based research and that may hold implications for renewable energy initiatives more broadly. 

solar field stretching across agricultural area
Solar fields in central Pennsylvania constructed as part of Penn's power purchase agreement. Image: AES

Eligibility Criteria

All Penn faculty and students are eligible to apply for support. Penn faculty may seek support to fund a student project, while students may seek support for their own capstone, individualized project, thesis work, or summer internship/fellowship opportunity, provided they have an advisor committed to mentor them. Projects may request up to $15,000 in funding. (Requests of smaller amounts, for example to support a summer research, education, or training project are welcome.)

Selection Criteria

Particular consideration will be given to proposals that:

  • Align with the focus areas of the Environmental Innovations Initiative:
    • Stewardship of Nature
      • Key Concepts: preservation, restoration, valuation, habitat, biodiversity, ecology, nature-based solutions
    • Climate Action
      • Key Concepts: decarbonization,mitigation, adaptation, sequestration, migration, science-based targets
    • Societal Resilience
      • Key Concepts: human health, well-being, justice, ecological health, economic prosperity, responsible consumption/production/waste management, disruption preparedness
  • Incorporate a transdisciplinary approach, especially involving new collaborations between disciplines
  • Involve hands-on research or experiential learning connected to the solar field site in central Pennsylvania
  • Will generate new knowledge and outline a plan to translate it for on-the-ground impact

Application Instructions

Please submit a proposal of no longer than 2 pages that includes the following:

Objective: Clearly define the intended project, including how the proposed work will enhance education and training related to renewable energy. Explain, if applicable, how the proposed work connects to the AES solar project. Describe how outcomes from the proposal may be translated into on-the-ground impact.

Project Team: Give names and titles of proposed team members and their roles in the project.

Budget: Provide an itemized budget and summarize how funds will be spent, when, and why.

Future directions: Explain how this project could be built upon by future efforts, including, if applicable, future sources of funding to support this work.

In addition, please share a CV of the principal investigator and/or lead student(s) involved.


Proposals will be considered on a rolling basis, beginning in May 2024. Send application materials to

Proposals will be reviewed by a panel of EII leadership, faculty, and members of the EII Internal Advisory Committee. Applicants will be notified of funding decisions within a month of submission.

Outcomes and Expectations

  • Successful applicants will meet with EII at the start of the funding cycle to go over the scope of the project and at the midpoint to check on progress.
  • At the conclusion of the funding cycle, the project team must share a final report (in pdf form) that summarizes their activities, with sections on key outcomes, expenditures, and deliverables. 
  • Sharing related photos, infographics, illustrations, or other visuals at any point in the funding cycle, and certainly at its conclusion, is very welcome to support future communications around funded projects.
  • Each project team will be featured on the EII website, newsletter, and social media channels to announce the awards and to share outputs.
  • Project teams will be asked to present during a poster session during a future Climate Week at Penn (held each fall).