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Grécourt Gate

News & Events for the Smith College Community
Sustainability April 19, 2018

Smith Will Partner on New Solar Facility

Solar
The project will be the first collaborative purchase of New England-generated solar by any higher-ed consortium.

Smith and four other leading liberal arts colleges have formed a pioneering collaborative that will allow them to offset 46,000 megawatt hours per year of their collective electrical needs with electricity created at a new solar power facility to be built in Farmington, Maine.  

The partnership represents the first collaborative purchase of New England-generated solar electricity by higher-education institutions.

Amherst, Bowdoin, Hampshire, Smith and Williams colleges are partnering with a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, a leading clean energy company, to construct a utility-scale solar power facility that annually will create enough electricity to power about 5,000 New England homes.

Each of the colleges will purchase zero-carbon electricity from the Maine site to reduce carbon emissions from campus electricity use. The facility is expected to open in 2019.

The New England College Renewable Partnership is innovative and impactful in several ways:

  • It facilitates the development of additional solar electricity generation in New England.
  • It will have a significant sustainability impact, moving each of the five campuses closer to their climate-action goals.
  • It helps each school manage costs by “locking in” the price of electricity for the next 20 years.
  • And, most importantly, it provides market access that would not have been available to individual institutions, offering a scalable model that other colleges and universities can follow. 

The Impact at Smith

The NEC Renewable Partnership significantly expands on Smith’s existing commitment to renewable energy purchases for Smith, says Smith College President Kathleen McCartney. “This is a groundbreaking demonstration of the first collaborative purchase of New England-generated solar electricity by higher-education institutions,” she notes, “but I hope it will not be the last. This initiative demonstrates that by working together, we can make a substantive, positive impact on our environment—at the institutional level, the regional level and beyond.”

Michael Howard, Smith’s executive vice president for finance and administration, says the partnership is a significant shift into renewable energy for the college, as Smith will purchase about 30 percent of its electricity through the partnership. This is all of the electricity that the college currently does not produce on site. (Solar panels on Smith’s campus already provide the equivalent of 2 percent of Smith’s electric use.) The Renewable Partnership will reduce college greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent, bringing Smith significantly closer to its goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The NEC Renewable Partnership will be a template for anticipated future electricity purchases, as the scale of the project—and the contract model—enable significant progress toward environmental sustainability at minimal cost.

In addition, the partnership will provide educational opportunities for Smith students.

“This partnership demonstrates the substantial value that can be created through institutional collaborations,” Howard said. “When we are able to work together toward common objectives, we can be more innovative—more impactful—than we can be on our own. And those benefits accrue to all members of our communities.”