A 15-acre solar field is being built on an unused parcel of land across from Stonehill College’s main campus on Route 138 in Easton. Scheduled to be completed early in 2014, it will be 2.7 megawatts in size and contain 9,000 solar panels which will make it the 11th (tied) largest solar installation on a college campus nationwide and the largest on a New England college campus according to the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) database.
The solar field is expected to save the College over $185,000 a year or an estimated $3.2 million over the course of a 15-year contract it has signed with New Jersey-based Marina Energy. The energy produced is expected to account for 20% of Stonehill’s electrical usage.
Protecting God’s Creation
The impetus for the solar field is not just financial. The project also aligns with Stonehill’s strategic commitment to building a culture of sustainability on campus and ties in with the College’s Catholic ethos.
“The solar field is an extension to our Catholic commitment to care for creation and sustainability. It gives further indication of our commitment, on every level, to preserving the resources that are in our care for future generations,” says Rev. James Lies, C.S.C., the College’s vice president for mission.
“As Catholics, we are called upon by God to be good stewards of the earth and the natural world. We have a responsibility to use our gifts and expertise to advocate for environmental justice and to create sustainable development options,” explains Fr. Lies.
In 2012, Stonehill became the 12th Catholic college in the United States to sign the St. Francis Pledge, which is a public promise to protect God’s creation and the environment, and to advocate for those who are impacted the most by global climate change. The pledge is named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi who is the patron saint of the environment and of animals.
Across a variety of fronts, Stonehill has taken numerous actions towards sustainability. For example, in 2012 the College phased out bottled water usage and in 2011 created The Farm at Stonehill, which supplies local food banks, soup kitchens and other meal providers with organic, sustainably grown fruits and vegetables.
Other initiatives have included composting cafeteria waste, introducing the Zip Car car-sharing option, single stream recycling and other waste reducing programs.
Once the solar field is completed, students and visitors of the College will be able to monitor the energy output from the solar field in real time on a screen which will be housed in the College’s Shield Science Center.
In addition to the 15-acre solar field, the College has also installed roof-top solar panels on two of its facilities storage buildings and has plans to install more roof-top panels throughout campus in the future.
Solect Energy of Hopkinton, MA, the leading commercial solar energy project developer in the state, is building the solar field while the entire project is being overseen by Power Management, Inc., an energy consulting firm which manages over 15,000 commercial and industrial utility meters throughout North America.
“Sustainability is very much part of our strategic plan and we are alert to new opportunities,” says Craig Binney, Stonehill’s associate vice president for finance and operations.
Through a connection with two Stonehill alumni, David Cohen ’93 and Richard Tepper ’86, College officials met with Power Management in 2011.
“We liked what we heard and, after speaking with its Vice President Kevin Kelly, we saw an opportunity for a significant sustainable initiative Binney notes.
“Solar projects take a long time to complete and it’s necessary to have a ‘champion’ for the project and I cannot say enough about the Stonehill team, especially Craig and Jeanne Finlayson (Vice President for Finance). Despite a few setbacks with the project along the way, they really moved things along and it has been such a pleasure working with them over these last two and a half years,” Kelly says.
Solect Energy broke ground on the project beginning this fall and expects the field to be completed over the next few months.
“It has been a pleasure working in collaboration with Stonehill, Power Management and Marina Energy on a project of this magnitude,” says Scott Howe, Partner at Solect Energy Development. “Stonehill is establishing itself as a shining example of how a college can reap the benefits of making a huge commitment to sustainability by using renewable solar energy to power its campus.”
Marina Energy, which owns and operates the field, commends Stonehill for its commitment to renewable energy.
“We credit Stonehill for its forward-thinking strategies which will put the College in a strong position to lead others in New England to a more sustainable future. As more and more institutions like Stonehill College turn to cleaner, renewable sources of energy, the community thrives through financial savings and improved efficiency,” says Steve Poniatowicz, senior vice president & chief operating officer of Marina Energy.
Stonehill is a selective Catholic college located near Boston on a beautiful 384-acre campus in Easton, Massachusetts. With a student-faculty ratio of 13:1, the College engages over 2,500 students in 80+ rigorous academic programs in the liberal arts, sciences, and pre-professional fields. The Stonehill community helps students to develop the knowledge, skills, and character to meet their professional goals and to live lives of purpose and integrity.
About Power Management
Power Management provides energy management and sustainability services to a diversified customer base. Founded in 1997, Power Management currently manages over 15,000 commercial and industrial utility meters throughout North America. We take energy management to a higher level through a process that includes comprehensive research, recommendation and implementation.
About Marina Energy
Marina is a wholly owned subsidiary of South Jersey Industries that develops, owns and operates on-site energy projects that include district heating and cooling, combined heat and power, solar and landfill gas-to-electric. Marina has gained significant project experience through partnering with higher education institutions within New Jersey.
About Solect Energy
Solect is a full-service solar photovoltaic (PV) project developer based in Massachusetts, delivering smart solar solutions to help businesses and organizations reduce energy costs. As an industry leader in commercial solar energy, Solect takes a practical approach to the development, installation and on-going support of each system. Solect partners closely with customers, providing strong financial insight and solar technology expertise to optimize their investment while creating a positive impact on the environment.
The company currently has 10 MW (megawatts) of systems completed and under development, with a primary focus on New England-based commercial, light industrial, and institutional property owners. Visit www.solect.com for more information.