October 13, 2013

Bowdoin plans Maine’s largest solar complex

The complex would be built on the roofs of two athletic facilities and at the former naval air station.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

This story was edited at 1:40 p.m. 10/12/13 to correct the units of power.

BRUNSWICK — Bowdoin College is proposing the largest solar power complex in Maine – by a factor of eight.

Dwarfing the system at Thomas College in Waterville, which is now the state’s biggest, Bowdoin’s proposed 1,300- kilowatt complex would be built on the roofs of two athletic facilities and on the college’s land at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, the college said in a news release.

It would generate 1.6 million kilowatt-hours, 8 percent of the electricity used by the college annually, the release said.

The complex would be among the largest solar projects in New England.

Last month, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy announced that his state had chosen HelioSage Energy to develop a 20-megawatt solar facility, which would trump HelioSage’s half-finished 7.4-megawatt center in Somers, Conn., as the largest solar project in New England.

The solar panel installation at Thomas College produces 170 kilowatts.

A megawatt is one million watts.

Bowdoin is collaborating on its project with California-based SolarCity Corp., which “would finance, build, own, and maintain the solar installations” at the college, the news release said. Bowdoin would buy the power.

“Our college is proud to propose this significant investment in clean and renewable solar energy,” college President Barry Mills said in a prepared statement.

In addition to reducing the college’s dependence on fossil fuels and lowering energy costs, the project would be an educational tool, he said.

The proposal is one of several sustainability initiatives undertaken by the college, which has pledged to become carbon-neutral by 2020.

The measures range from setting computers to sleep mode to heating a dining hall with solar panels.

For the proposed solar power project, panels installed on the roofs of Farley Field House and Watson Arena would have capacity for about 600 kilowatts. The rest of the energy would come from panels mounted on the ground at the former naval air station, about a mile from campus. The project would take up three of the 127 acres that Bowdoin acquired at the base.

The land was conveyed to the college by the U.S. Department of Education, one of several agencies that must approve the project before it can move forward.

Everett “Brownie” Carson, a former executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, lauded the college – his alma mater – for being a leader in Maine in support of renewable energy.

“I hope this project inspires others to make significant investments in renewables in the state,” he said in a prepared statement.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy contributed to this report. 

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: lbridgers@pressherald.com

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