How Campuses Get Power
from Solar Energy
-Sunlight hits the solar panels.
-The solar panels converts the
light into current (DC) elec-
-The light flows out of the solar
panels and into an inverter.
-The inverter converts that “DC”
power into alternating current
or “AC” power (which powers
televisions, computers, and
-A net energy meter tracks
the power the solar system
produces. Any unused solar
energy goes back into the
electrical grid through the
-At night or on cloudy days,
when the panels do not
produce enough energy,
electricity will be pulled
from the grid.
“In the recent five years, students have been asking questions,” he says. Some alumni came together to throw around ideas, and after meeting with Power Management, “we had a kick-off meeting to take this seriously,” he says.
Binney says that the solar panel project kick-started new ideas for “green” power, such as solar panels for roofs and an electric car charging station.
He also says that Stonehill’s students are the real fuel for all of the school’s energy efficient initiatives.
“We get lots of ideas from students,” he says. “They have the Sustainability Fair, Jamnesty, the Green Fund, green kits for freshmen at orientation and [other] sustainability plans…they’ve been “grass-root” support.”
How your college will benefit from going green:
1) Huge ROI
Even though colleges have to spend a lot of green to go green, the ROI is often high. For Middlebury College, its $12 million biomass boiler project will save the college $840,000 in fuel costs per year, with a full pay-back period of 12 years. Plus, the college purchases its tons worth of woodchips from local vendors, which will pump $800,000 a year back into the local economy.
“We’re putting one million dollars back into the new economy,” Byrne says. “We’re spending money in the local area supporting truckers, mills, etc. in a small scale.”
With solar energy, campuses have the option of investing in a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with a solar company, which enables a campus to buy electricity from the company funding the panels.
“You end up saving 20 percent on the bill,” says Raju Yenamandra, Vice President of Business Development of Solar World. “If you have a PPA, you have a monthly payment on how much energy was actually generated [that month]. The bill is usually less than what it was before solar.”
In Stonehill’s case, the college was able to lease its farm land to Marina Energy, who funded the entire project, then buy the solar powered electricity at a reduced rate.
“There are plenty of vendors who are interested in leasing options like the ones Stonehill used,” says Scott Howe, a minority partner of Solect Energy and vice president of business development. “It’s a significant opportunity for any college to lower electricity costs by using solar.”
2) Enriches educational experiences
With green technologies available on campus, some schools have integrated energy efficient strategies into class lessons.
Byrne says that Middlebury College students have done theses on sustainability, highlighting the functionality of the biomass boiler and wood chip burning.
“It adds a dimension to teaching and learning,” he says.
Stonehill’s actual farmland, which also houses the solar farm, grows 40 varieties of fruits and vegetables for local shelters. Stonehill’s farm produces around 12,000 pounds of food per year, which is helped through organic farming strategies practiced by student volunteers.
3) Protect the environment
By investing in energy efficient technologies to power campus, your college can play a significant role in protecting and preserving the environment. Solar and biomass power reduces electricity and oil consumption, and reduces the amount of toxins released into the atmosphere.
“With solar power, you can use land that otherwise would not be in use,” says Yenamandra. “And you provide cleaner energy.”
With Middlebury’s biomass movement, Byrne says the college is more aware of where its energy is coming from and how it’s used.
“It makes everyone feel better,” he says. “We’ve gone from having no idea where oil is produced to knowing what forest parcels are, who’s involved with the harvesting, and who’s supplying.”