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Energy Use & Efficiency

Solar Panels Generate Power Atop Smith College's Campus Center

Solar panels mounted on the roof of the Smith College Campus Center in 2009 are producing clean energy and reduce the college's operating costs while lowering carbon emissions.

Throughout the next 20 years, the system will reduce carbon emissions by 238 metric tons, which is equivalent to the carbon that would be removed by planting 215 acres of trees.

"I am thrilled that we are able to place this demonstration of renewable power on the building that is the crossroads of our campus," said Dano Weisbord, Smith's environmental sustainability director.

The electricity produced by the 130 solar panels will be approximately equivalent to the power needed to run the Campus Center Cafe. Installed by Borrego Solar Systems Inc., the panels will be located on the southwest side of the roof, where the Cafe and the Carroll Room are located.

The solar system was financed through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with renewable energy marketer and developer, Community Energy, Inc.

Under the agreement, Community Energy will own and operate the $240,000 system, which enables the college to take advantage of the renewable power source without funding the system's purchase up front. Community Energy will sell Smith electricity produced by the system at a locked-in rate for 20 years, insulating the college from rising energy costs.

"Community Energy is proud to join Smith College in developing this project that will bring clean, fuel-free electricity to the campus," said Brent Alderfer, president and chief executive officer of Community Energy. "The solar Power Purchase Agreement is a great way for colleges and universities to reap the cost benefits of solar power without a large initial capital investment."

Community Energy has worked with numerous colleges and universities, such as the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Albany and Emerson College, to reduce their environmental impacts with renewable energy and carbon offset products.

Smith will augment the power it purchases through Community Energy with power generated by the college's high-efficiency cogeneration power plant and with electricity from the grid.

"We applaud Smith College on its decision to implement solar energy at its campus center," said Brendan Neagle, chief operating officer of Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. "Students, faculty and the community-at-large will enjoy the long-term benefits of going solar for years to come."