While students were drinking obscene amounts of coffee in the midst of finals week, the College made one important step towards the completion of what will be Maine’s largest solar power plant. In December, the College signed an official agreement with SolarCity, the company that will build and own the panels, according to Katy Longley, college treasurer and senior vice president for finance and administration.
While the deal’s specifics cannot be released due to a non-disclosure agreement, Longley did confirm that the panels will not significantly cut the College’s energy costs.
“It’s pretty much cost neutral for the College for the first several years,” she said. “However, if electricity prices spike, we may save money sooner.”
Before SolarCity can break ground, the College must receive permission from the U.S. Department of Education to lease the land on the former Naval Air Station base.
“There’s precedence for other former base closures to have solar projects on them. We think we’re going to be fine, but we haven’t gotten official word from them yet,” said Longley.
The panels will make up to 8 percent of the College’s electricity use. Combined with the energy generated from the heating plant, approximately 15 to 16 percent of Bowdoin’s total energy use will be through alternative sources.
According to Longley, construction could begin as early as the end of the semester.
“Theoretically, if they broke ground in May, [the plant] will be done before students come back,” she said.
SolarCity aims to make the construction process as transparent as possible.
“If students want to watch the installation, or come to engineering meetings or be part of it at all, SolarCity is really open to having student involvement,” said Longley.