Cranes place solar panels on roofs and the screech of drills can be heard throughout the campus of William Paterson University as workers begin installing a massive solar farm, the largest on a U.S. college campus.
The solar facility is predicted to save the Wayne, N.J., university millions of dollars in energy costs.
“We are proud we can do this,” says Stephen Bolyai, William Paterson vice president for administration and finance, adding that the university's 11,000 students are taking the construction in stride and are "extremely positive" about the project.
The solar farm, designed by SunDurance Energy of Edison will power the university with 3.5 megawatts of energy and consist of solar arrays at parking lots and photovoltaic cells on the rooftops of campus buildings. The first 3 MW is slated to go online this summer and the remaining portion will be switched on early next year, providing the university with a big chunk of clean energy. "It should provide about 15 to 20 percent of our energy needs on the campus," Stephen says.
The system will be operated by Summit, N.J.-based Nautilus Solar Energy. William Paterson will buy the power from Nautilus at a reduced rate, cutting the school's energy bill by $4.3 million over 15 years.
A kiosk will be set up at the university's new science building so students and faculty can explore how much energy the solar farm produces and saves. "It will be part of a living laboratory," Stephen says.
William Paterson is taking additional steps to increase energy efficiency, upgrading its heating and air conditioning systems through a $1.2 million Recovery Act grant, deploying a new fleet of electric cars, and installing light sensors in buildings.
Stephen says the energy savings achieved through the solar farm will help the university's bottom line. "By doing this project we are saving money through cost avoidance." But, he says, the project's main benefactor will be Mother Earth. "We have a social responsibility in that we need to reduce our carbon footprint."