Hartford, Connecticut, November 9, 2016 – More than 1,000 solar panels on the roofs of several Trinity College buildings are now generating clean energy for the campus while also helping to off-set electricity costs. A total of 1,140 College-owned solar panels were installed earlier this year on the roofs of Ferris Athletic Center, Albert C. Jacobs Life Sciences Center (LSC), Buildings & Grounds, and Trinity Commons.
According to Energy Manager Joshua Greenwood, CEM, Trinity’s new solar energy system was brought online on September 14 and is already saving the College money on its electric bill. “The total expected annual production is 397,000 kilowatt-hours [kWh],” Greenwood said. “Trinity currently pays about 12.5 cents [per kWh] for electricity, so that’s an expected offset of about $50,000 a year.”
Another benefit of this system, Greenwood said, is that for every 1,000 kWh of electricity that the solar panel system generates, it earns a zero-emissions renewable energy credit, or ZREC, which can be sold on the open market. “We’re selling those ZRECs to Eversource,” Greenwood said. “Eversource has a renewable portfolio standard, so they have to generate a certain percentage via green energy. They can either build a wind farm or solar panels, or they can just buy ZRECs. They are currently buying our ZRECs, and that is going to generate about $16,800 per year.”
The panels themselves are warrantied for 25 years, and the inverters that convert the panel energy from DC to AC are warrantied for 20 years. “There is generally a 20-year life for solar panels,” Greenwood said. “Over their 20-year life, these panels are expected to generate about 7.3 million kilowatt-hours. At that 12.5 cents [per kWh] rate, if you project the cost of electricity to change over 20 years, you’re looking at a total cost avoidance of about $1.1 million over the next 20 years, and a ZREC generation of about $236,000, which pays back the cost of the project.”
The total cost of the project was about $1.1 million, which includes the cost of roof replacements on LSC and Buildings & Grounds, Greenwood said. “We went with a white, reflective ‘cool roof,’ which saves energy compared to a black roof because it doesn’t absorb so much heat,” he said. The buildings on which solar panels have been installed were chosen based on the flatness of the roofs, the amount of roof space available, and the overall shading and angles of sunlight that reaches the area. The entire solar panel system will have Wi-Fi capabilities to allow the energy production meters to be read remotely.
In addition to bringing the new solar panels online, Greenwood is working on other ways to implement energy cost savings, in line with the goals of the Bicentennial Strategic Planning Commission’s Facilities and Environmental Sustainability Committee. Tom Fusciello, Trinity’s director of construction, design, and capital projects, is a member of that committee. “Whenever we design projects, we try to do them as energy-efficiently and sustainably as we can,” he said. “We will keep exploring more sustainable options for the campus.”
Environmental Subcommittee Chair Johannes Evelein, professor of language and culture studies, said that the solar panels are part of a long-term project to significantly reduce Trinity’s ecological footprint and make the campus more sustainable. “It is a project we have to take very seriously as a community,” Evelein said. “An important question for us to ask is: what do we want to accomplish? Some colleges have already achieved carbon neutrality, and they’ve done so without breaking the bank. The urgency of climate change calls for bold action. My hope is that Trinity will show leadership in combatting global warming. Introducing solar energy is an important first step.”
Written by Andrew J. Concatelli