Ithaca College reaping benefits of solar farm investment

Tompkins Weekly Staff

ITHACA – An investment into clean energy technology is paying dividends for Ithaca College.
The college, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, has announced its campus has begun receiving the equivalent of 10 percent of its annual electricity from solar power. A 2.9-megawatt solar array – more than 9,000 solar panels on a 15-acre site in the Town of Seneca, located approximately 40 miles from campus – started producing renewable energy last month. The solar farm will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help New York achieve its Clean Energy Standard that 50 percent of its electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2030.

Photo provided by Ithaca College
An aerial view of Ithaca College’s solar array, located on a 15-acre site in the Town of Seneca, under the glare of the setting sun. The site, about 40 miles from campus, will produce 10 percent of the college’s annual electricity needs.

According to IC, the installation will generate an estimated 3.55 million kilowatt-hours of electricity in the first year of operation, the equivalent of powering 500 average-sized homes in New York. The solar panels will offset 888 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, which is comparable to taking 187 cars off the road.
Solar energy is a key component of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision strategy to build a cleaner, more resilient and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers.
“The use of solar energy by Ithaca College is a model for other colleges and universities, and is vital to helping New York achieve Governor Cuomo’s energy goals,” said John Rhodes, NYSERDA president and chief executive officer, in a prepared statement. “I commend the college for its continued commitment to the environment and for setting an example for its students, staff and local community on the benefits of clean energy.”
The project uses remote net metering, which allows the college to get credit on its electricity bill over the next 25 years for excess power generated by the system and fed back into the grid.
“I offer my thanks to our public and private partners for helping us make this project a reality,” said Ithaca College President Tom Rochon. “Its conception, commencement and completion serves as testament to the commitment Ithaca College has made to sustainability not just in theory, but in action.”
The project received funding through NY-Sun, Governor Cuomo’s $1 billion initiative to advance the scale-up of solar and move New York State closer to having a sustainable, self-sufficient solar industry. NYSERDA administers NY-Sun. The solar farm itself did not require any funding from Ithaca College, and the rate the college will pay per kilowatt-hour is comparable to that of its recently negotiated electricity supply contract.
“It is exciting and significant that for the next two decades, 10 percent of the electricity utilized by Ithaca College will be in the form of renewable energy as a result of this solar purchase agreement,” said Timothy Carey, IC’s associate vice president of facilities. “The important educational component of this project is equally exciting, as our students and faculty members will have an opportunity to derive learning and instructional opportunities on a prospective basis.”
Partners involved in the project include Greenwood Energy, Borrego Solar Systems, Inc., and OneEnergy Renewables. A groundbreaking was held in February of 2016, and the installation was completed this past fall.
In the fall of 2009, the Ithaca College Board of Trustees approved a Climate Action Plan, committing the college to becoming 100 percent carbon neutral by 2050. The college is a charter member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, and has been consistently named in the Princeton Review’s list of top “green” colleges.
In 2011, Ithaca College became just the second academic institution in the world to have two newly constructed buildings earn a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council when the Peggy Ryan Williams Center joined the Dorothy D. and Roy H. Park Center for Business and Sustainable Enterprise in achieving that designation. The Athletics & Events Center and Classroom Link corridor have both earned LEED Gold.
Additional information on Ithaca College’s green initiatives is available at www.ithaca.edu/sustainability.