Hampshire College to become entirely solar powered with installation of 15,000 panels

By Hannah Depin

Robert Rigo/Collegian
Robert Rigo/Collegian

Hampshire College will install 15,000 solar panels on its campus this fall in an effort to run entirely on solar energy, according to a statement released by the college on Aug. 5.

The panels will be arranged throughout two solar arrays in fields on campus, comprising 19 acres in total. They will be built, owned and operated by the energy company SolarCity, and the college will purchase electricity from SolarCity at a fixed rate, according to the statement.

The system is expected to eliminate 3,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions and cut $400,000 from the college’s electricity bill each year. The system will be connected into the regional power grid, so that the college will be able to send excess energy to the community, and draw from it on cloudy days, said Hampshire College spokesman John Courtmanche.

“Solar technology is so advanced that we don’t need to be concerned about being able to provide energy,” Courtmanche said.

He estimated that the panels will turn on this coming winter or spring, after construction concludes in December.

“Construction will not affect campus operations,” Courtmanche added, though construction in one of the fields located at the corner of Route 116 and West Bay Road near Atkins Country Farm will be “highly visible” to the public.

Hampshire is set to have the largest on-campus solar energy system among New England colleges and universities, and one of the largest in the eastern United States, according to the statement.

The project, led by Hampshire College’s Environmental Committee, began in 2014. The Committee sought to identify areas of campus that would be best-suited for the panels, and was conscious of maintaining ecosystems, according to the statement. Faculty and students at the college are applying for grants to conduct research on the impact of solar arrays on farmland, said Courtmanche.

This year, the University of Massachusetts Amherst has its own solar initiative as well. UMass will install 15,576 photovoltaic panels across campus by the end of 2016, according to a statement released by UMass on July 20.

Hannah Depin can be reached at [email protected]