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New York State College's 'Field of Dreams' Goes Solar


Supportive government policy frameworks in “sunny” New England and Mid-Atlantic states such as Massachusetts, Vermont, New York and New Jersey have led to booming demand for and installations of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems. The Northeast's regional solar boom has led residential, commercial and utility-scale PV project developers from the West Coast to head east.

And as is true in California, colleges and universities are leading adopters of solar PV and other clean, renewable energy systems. On April 17, Houghton College cut the ribbon and celebrated bringing the largest solar PV system on a New York State college campus online.

Installed by San Diego-based Borrego Solar, Houghton College's 2.5 megawatt PV system will meet over half the college's electricity needs, significantly reduce energy costs and “have a long-lasting positive environmental impact,” the college highlighted in a news report.

Over 3 million kilowatt-hours of renewable electricity per year

Projected to produce 3.15 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy a year, the on-site PV system is expected to reduce Houghton College's greenhouse gas emissions by 23 percent during its first year of operations. Estimated savings on electricity costs are projected to total as much as $4.3 million over the life of the college's 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA).

Located in western New York 65 miles from Buffalo and Rochester, Houghton provides some 1,000 students a liberal arts education grounded in Christian values. Local and state government leaders, along with university officials, students and executives from Borrego Solar, General Energy Solutions and WGL Energy, attended the commissioning ceremony, which took place at Houghton College's Field of Dreams.

“The solar project reflects both Houghton College's commitment to renewable energy and our commitment to form creative partnerships for the greater good of our region,” said Shirley Mullen, president of Houghton College.

Commented Borrego Solar Senior Project Developer Amy McDonough: “With this solar installation, Houghton College has taken a leadership role in sustainability in the education space.

“We commend Houghton for working with Borrego Solar, WGL Energy and General Energy Solutions to take advantage of available financing, technology and New York’s net metering policies to secure the long-term economic and environmental benefits that solar can provide for schools statewide.”

Growing solar adoption in U.S. schools

Schools, colleges and universities have been at the leading edge of solar energy adoption across the U.S. Installed PV capacity at U.S. schools has soared over the past decade, doubling every year for the past six years, according to the first nationwide assessment of solar PV adoption in U.S. schools. The report, entitled Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools, was produced by the Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Supportive government energy policy reform has been the key to rapid growing solar PV and renewable energy. New York state is a leader among U.S. states aiming to pave the way for a renewable energy transition during Gov. Andrew Cuomo's time in office.

Financial incentives, fast-track permitting procedures and other measures instituted under the umbrella of the NY-Sun program facilitated Houghton College's PV installation. “This past spring, the State's NY-Sun initiative awarded $46 million for large-scale solar energy projects through the Competitive PV Program administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority,” project partners point out in a joint press release.

“The new solar facility will allow Houghton to replace a significant amount of fossil fuel-generated electricity with renewable energy,” they highlight. “This translates into cleaner air and water, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and a healthier climate for future generations.

“The installation will offset 2,000 metric tons of CO2 annually, which is the equivalent of taking 421 cars off the road or the amount of carbon sequestered by 1,639 acres of U.S. forests each year.”

*Image credits: 1), 2) Houghton College; 3) TSF-SEIA

Andrew Burger headshotAndrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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