Over the summer, energy company SolarCity installed solar panels on the roof of Sidney J. Watson Arena.

The panels are part of a new solar installation that will supply eight percent of the College’s electricity and will include over 4,300 photovoltaic panels­­—making it the largest solar installation in the state of Maine. 

The majority of installation work took place over the summer. The panels on Watson Arena have been operational since August 29 and supply power to the arena itself. 

Over 2,100 panels are being installed on the three-acre plot of land at the former Naval Air Station Brunswick, which the college acquired in 2011. There are also panels being added to the roofs of Farley Field House, Greason Pool and 52 Harpswell. All of these panels are scheduled to be fully operational by the end of October and will supply power to the South Campus Loop—which includes Osher Hall, West Hall and Moulton Union, among other buildings. 

The College purchases the electricity generated by the panels from SolarCity, which covered the upfront costs of the installation. 

According to the Director of Finance and Campus Services Delwin Wilson, the current rates for the  energy produced by the new installations are comparable to rates for non-sustainable energy from different companies. 

“In the long term we’re thinking it will save us some money depending on what happens to electricity rates,” Wilson said.

The College has agreed to a 20-year deal with SolarCity, which  stipulates that the company is responsible for upkeep and management of the new panels. 

In May 2013, Central Maine Power (CMP), the electric utility company that supplies the College with much of its non-renewable energy, attempted to introduce new standby charges as part of an effort to increase distribution rates.

These charges would have levied a special rate on customers who supply some of their own power—not using energy from CMP’s grid—but who still rely on CMP for dependable distribution services. 

The proposed standby charges were dropped from CMP’s proposal after a 14-month proceeding that included two public hearings held last spring. The Maine Independent Colleges Association opposed the standby charges but signed on to CMP’s plan when the proposed charges were abandoned. 

Other aspects of the proposal, such as the increase of the monthly fixed charge for residential accounts from $5.71 to $10, have gone into effect this month. 

The College does not currently have any concrete plans for further solar development, but it may be keeping that option open for the future. 

“The cost of solar keeps coming down so this is our first toe in the water,” said Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Katy Longley. “But we’re just trying to finish this one first.”

The Treasurer’s Office coordinated tours of the panels at the Naval Air Station Brunswick with SolarCity in August and plans to run two more tours for students and residents in October. 

Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the College had installed the solar panels at Watson Arena and that the Watson Arena installation supplied power to the South Campus Loop. The article has been updated to correct these mistakes.