The solar electric project, a solar farm that Ithaca College said will cover 10 percent of the college’s energy needs, is officially operational and producing energy as of Dec. 22.
Construction began on the array in December 2015 and was initially expected to be completed by summer 2016. The array is nearly 40 miles from campus in the Town of Seneca and includes 9,000 solar panels. It cost $6.4 million to construct, all of which was funded through grants from New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $1 billion New York Sun Initiative and a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
Upkeep and maintenance for the solar array will be paid for by Greenwood Energy, a solar power company out of North and South America. The college will purchase 100 percent of the energy produced, said Greg Lischke, the director of energy management and sustainability.
The college is not receiving the energy produced from the array directly; it is dispersed in the New York State power grid. The college receives an energy credit on its electricity bill for this energy, subtracting the cost to produce this electricity from the college’s overall energy bill.
Lischke said the cost of the solar energy is almost the same as what the college already pays for traditional energy sources.
“Our current solar agreement pricing is right in line with our electricity rates,” Lischke said. “It also helps provide some price certainty as the future solar costs are already negotiated into the contracts.”
Former President Peggy Williams signed the college onto the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, now known as the Climate Leadership Commitments, in 2007, pledging the college to be 100 percent carbon neutral by 2050.
Tim Carey, associate vice president for facilities, said via email that the solar array helps push the college toward carbon neutrality.
“The fact that approximately 10% of the College’s energy is now of the clean, renewable variety is a helpful and positive step to our goal to reduce carbon emissions” he said.
Senior Josh Enderle, current program manager of Eco-Reps, said it is great the college is investing in renewable energy.
“This is a step in the right direction in that we are putting money towards renewable energy finally; we have a project of our own that we can claim as making electricity from solar power,” he said.
Additionally, Enderle said the college needs to continue to pursue other sources of renewable energy, including renewable-energy credits.
“We need to continue pushing for more renewable energies, or looking to get credits somewhere else along the way supporting other programs,” he said.