By Kevin Whitehead
Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) is in the planning stages of installing a solar field on Rider’s four-acre lot between the softball fields and Interstate-95 this fall, pending Lawrence Township Planning Board approval.
According to associate vice president of Facilities and Auxiliary Services Mike Reca, this project will tentatively provide approximately 740,000-kilowatt hours of energy for the Lawrenceville community, from which Rider will benefit indirectly. This number will be finalized after zoning approval.
“The energy is going directly into the PSE&G grid,” he said. “It is not coming to Rider. This alternative energy source will benefit the community as a whole. It provides the opportunity for PSE&G to sell electricity as a renewable resource.”
The land would be tentatively leased to PSE&G for 20 years, but the lease is conditional upon the approval of the Planning Board, which will vote on the proposal in June.
“Basically, [the field will] provide solar energy that is put right into the electrical grid and so it is an alternate source of energy,” Reca said. “There’s not a whole lot of locations in New Jersey so PSE&G goes around looking for land.”
According to Reca, Rider is not giving up ownership of the land.
“The 3.2 acres is being leased,” he said. “Rider still owns it. Currently, there are no plans for that land other than this project.”
Reca would not provide the amount of money Rider would receive from PSE&G for the leased land.
PSE&G approached Rider two years ago about implementing its “Solar 4 All” program — which is one of PSE&G’s programs to decrease carbon emissions. Rider reached a mutual agreement to lease its rear fields behind the softball field that were deemed suitable for solar construction. The solar company, Alteris Renewables, based in Wilton, Conn., would build the field, according to Sustainability Coordination Manager Melissa Greenberg.
According to Reca, this is not the only solar project the university has in mind.
“We are also pursuing other options in solar [energy] that are more indigenous to the campus,” Reca said.
While the solar field negotiations are forthcoming, the project’s potential impact is great.
“Something that appealed [to us about “Solar 4 All”] was that we’re a higher education institution. The visibility of the spot and that partnership was appealing,” Greenberg said.
“There’s a lot of us that want to see this happen but, again, we’ve done our part of the project. It’s now whether [PSE&G] can get its approvals,” Reca said.
Greenberg said there have already been eco-friendly initiatives around campus including RecycleMania, food waste composting and even green building. The latter is one of the more expensive projects that has improved Rider’s preservation of its environment.
“Well, our biggest [building] move has been West Village. Those projects together are much larger financial projects which will have impact for years to come,” Reca said.
Rider is Silver Certified according to the Leadership and Energy Efficient Design (LEED). According to Reca, anyone enrolled in this program amasses points for different aspects like using recyclable construction parts. There are different certification levels including silver, gold and platinum. Each level simultaneously increases price and quality.
Other solar projects have been brought up, one being a solar panel installed on campus on the Science Building’s roof.
According to Dr. Laura Hyatt, assistant dean of Sciences, the solar field project is much further along than any plans for solar panels on the Science Building.
“It would be a great idea,” Hyatt said. “I would really like us to be a demonstration building for the campus in terms of generating our own energy.”
Although a solar field could be one of the largest moves Rider has made in the way of renewable energy, there has already been a green scheme around campus because of the student organization, Eco-Reps.
These students encourage green behavior around campus and serve as a bridge from administration to Residence Life to the student body.
“They are the ambassadors for the sustainability on campus. They are the mouthpieces for the university. They do signage, programs, and they’ve done a lot of resident hall programs,” Greenberg said.
The Eco-Reps realize the role they play on campus.
“We basically monitor how everyone is recycling their trash and make sure everything is separated properly,” freshman Katelyn White said.
Greenberg believes the solar field will communicate Rider’s commitment to being green.
“If the people will see the visual, people will be more interested in what we’re doing,” she said. “I think there will be more interest in our initiatives.”