Major Solar Project Coming to Tompkins Cortland Community College
December 6, 2013
Pending final approval, a large solar power plant that will meet approximately 90% of Tompkins Cortland Community College’s electricity needs will be coming to the Dryden campus. Thanks to an agreement with SEC LHNY Solar One, LLC, a subsidiary of Smart Energy Capital, LLC, which secured a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Tompkins Cortland is in line to take a huge step towards being completely independent of grid-supplied electricity. The project furthers the College’s commitment to reliance on sustainable energy sources, eliminating greenhouse emissions, and reducing its carbon footprint. It also presents the potential for significant utility savings for Tompkins Cortland, all at no cost to the College.
The solar plant will consist of 8,676 solar panels, covering an area of roughly 10 acres. The farm will be located on land owned by the Foundation and leased by the College, just across Bahar Drive from the main campus building. It is estimated the project will produce more than three million kilowatt hours of power each year, which is roughly 90% of the annual usage on Tompkins Cortland’s main campus.
The start of the project is still dependent on successful completion of site studies and approval from the town of Dryden, which are expected. “We are fully confident that this project will move forward,” said Tompkins Cortland President Carl Haynes, noting the project fits in with the commitment the College made when he signed the President’s Climate Commitment in March 2008. “We are making a real investment in moving off the grid, and I’m delighted that we are able to do it without having to use College resources.” In fact, the agreement with Solar One should lead to savings for the College.
“Based on our best current projections, the first-year savings will be approximately $30,000,” said Tompkins Cortland Director of Facilities James Turner. “After that, if traditional utility rates continue to climb, I anticipate we will see additional savings over what we would have been spending.”
It is estimated this project will have a direct benefit to the environment in the form of the abatement of more than 890 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. “This, combined with our efforts to decrease energy use over the past 10 years, will dramatically decrease our carbon footprint,” said Turner, noting that the College has already decreased energy use by nearly 50% during that time period, despite increasing the size of its facilities.
The solar project will be constructed by Borrego Solar and operated by Solar One, with the College as the beneficiary of the solar power. Depending on the timing of the permitting and final approvals, the solar farm should be operating, and providing for the majority of the College’s electricity needs, sometime in 2014.