A new school year has begun and with that comes many new ideas, projects and outcomes. All around the United States solar energy has become a growing source of renewable energy. Rider is joining many college campuses in the effort to go green and use solar energy as a way of becoming more sustainable.
Butte College in California was the first “grid positive” college in the country, meaning it is now producing more clean energy from onsite solar power than it uses. According to The New York Times, the Oregon Institute of Technology has developed the first four-year undergraduate degree program in Renewable Energy Systems. In the program, there are specialized courses in solar energy research among many others. Now, the State University of New York in Canton and the Illinois State University have similar programs as well. Many community colleges now have two-year programs that teach students how to improve the energy efficiency of homes and businesses and install solar power and wind power systems. As one can easily see, solar power is a popular topic and is one that Rider has begun to focus on too.
The university is close to having its first solar array built on campus through a partnership with Alteris Renewables, Inc. and PSE&G with their Solar4All program. The 740 kilowatt solar panel array is located in the back of campus next to the softball field and adjacent to Interstate 95. Installed in the most environmentally friendly way, no trees were removed in creating this array, no wetlands were disturbed and the new grass underneath the panels will be shade tolerant.
The major components of the solar array are the 2,640 Suntech high efficiency polycrystalline solar modules, advanced energy inverters and a racking system with pile driven posts; this is the greenest way to install the solar array, by pounding the posts four feet into the ground instead of pouring concrete. What does this mean for Rider students and for the environment? According to PSE&G, our solar array will produce enough energy to power 92 homes. That amount of energy is equivalent to reducing CO2 emissions by 34,580,526 pounds over the course of 25 years, taking 127.4 passenger vehicles off the road each year, eliminating the use of 74,902 gallons of gasoline each year, or planting 17,074 trees. Thinking about all of these awesome benefits makes it easy to realize just how much Rider is doing to be greener.
Since our solar field is a land lease through the PSE&G Solar4All program, the energy from the solar panels will not be going directly to Rider. It will be converted then sent into the grid of solar panels. Rider will, however, benefit indirectly from the production of this renewable energy and will at the same time generate revenue from the land lease to be used for further sustainability initiatives here on campus.
For photos of the array and other information, join the Broncs Go Green group on Facebook.
– Jillian Spratt