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Harvard, WPU Add Solar, UNH Uses Landfill Gas for Power

solar panels2Academic institutions are taking a closer look at renewable energy sources to power their schools. Harvard University has just completed its first large rooftop solar power system, while the William Paterson University (WPU) is just ramping up its solar project. Also, the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) landfill gas-to-energy project aims to supply up to 85 percent of the campus’ electricity and heating needs.

Harvard University has completed its first large rooftop solar power system. The 500-kilowatt SunPower system has been installed on the roof of one of the historic buildings at the Arsenal on the Charles complex in Watertown, Mass., a former military installation purchased by Harvard in 2001.

CarbonFree Technology, which worked with SunPower to design and install the system, estimates that the solar power system will generate enough electricity to power 83 average Massachusetts homes each year. Based on the average carbon intensity of grid electricity in Massachusetts, this output will offset the equivalent of 367 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to the company.

The system is owned by Crimson Solar, a wholly owned subsidiary of Integrys Energy Services. Harvard will purchase the power generated from the system, and the associated solar renewable energy certificates, for 25 years at a pre-determined rate, with no upfront capital cost.

Nautilus Solar Energy and SunDurance Energy say they are building the largest solar energy facility at a university in the United States at the William Paterson University New Jersey campus. The 3.5 megawatt (MW) solar energy project will include rooftop and parking lot solar installations. The first 3 MW phase is expected to go online during the summer of 2010. The remaining 500 kW will follow in early 2011.

Nautilus Solar will finance, own and operate the solar facility under a 15-year power purchase agreement (PPA), under which WPU will purchase the power at a reduced rate without any upfront costs. Solar system installer SunDurance Energy will design and construct the system.

The solar power system is expected to reduce WPU’s energy costs by $4.3 million over the 15-year term. Based on the standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, by generating over 3,392,000 kWh of solar energy annually, the WPU solar system will offset the equivalent of more than 5,369,000 pounds of CO2 emissions, according to the companies.

Meanwhile, the University of New Hampshire is thinking outside the box when it comes to saving energy. The university, in partnership with Waste Management of New Hampshire, is using processed landfill gas from a landfill gas-to-energy project to provide up to 85 percent of the campus’ electricity and heating needs when fully operational.

The EcoLine project uses methane from a nearby landfill as the primary fuel for UNH’s cogeneration plant. UNH is said to be the first university in the U.S. to use landfill gas as its primary fuel source. With a price tag of about $49 million, the school anticipates payback within 10 years of the project. UNH will sell renewable energy credits to help finance the project and invest in other energy-efficiency projects on the campus.

This project, along with the sale of RECs, is expected to help UNH reach its greenhouse gas reduction targets of 50 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

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