Long a leader in top-notch academics, Princeton University is now a leader in green technology and clean energy. The Ivy League school announced last week its plans for a 27-acre solar field to partially power its New Jersey campus. The system will consist of 16,500 photovoltaic panels, making it the largest solar field for any U.S. college or university. It will produce enough energy to power 700 households and lower the school’s energy costs by 8 percent.
The introduction of the solar field is part of Princeton’s 2008 sustainability plan to reduce its carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The field will be built on university-owned land located southeast of the main campus, just across the Delaware Canal. Construction is expected to start next year. SunPower Corp., the company chosen to build the solar field, says the field will produce 8 million kilowatts per year, enough to cover 5.5 percent of Princeton’s total electricity needs. However, on super sunny days, that number could be bumped up to 20 percent in any given hour.
To pay for the solar field, Princeton will use New Jersey’s Solar Renewable Energy Certificate program. Under the program, the state will issue one SREC for every 1,000 kilowatt hours of energy produced by the solar field until 2020. The university will then sell the credits to a utility company to partially cover the cost of the system.
WHY THIS MATTERS
The EPA estimates that a solar system like this one would be the equivalent of taking more than 1,200 cars off the road, which means a reduction of 3,090 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. By making such a large commitment to renewable energy, Princeton is raising the bar for universities working to go green.