Bowdoin College is two years ahead of schedule — in becoming carbon neutral.

The higher education institution is now focused on participating in the largest solar project in the state, with four other colleges.

The push to achieve carbon neutrality came after it pledged to do so in 2007, committing, in 2009, to do so by 2020.

To get there, Bowdoin updated campus infrastructure, according to a press release from the college, including producing electricity as a by-product of generating heat, converting buildings from oil to natural gas, insulating pipes and replacing thousands of lights with more efficient LED bulbs.

Those actions resulted in a 29 percent reduction in carbon emissions — from 16,326 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2008 to only 11,620 metric tons in 2017 — surpassing the original goals.

To make up for the amount of emissions that remain, Bowdoin is investing in carbon offsets from wind farms. That allows it to maintain a “net-zero carbon footprint” as it continues to look to further reduce greenhouse gas production.


“By achieving carbon neutrality two years ahead of schedule, Bowdoin College is demonstrating the leadership and innovation needed to help meet the shared goals of the Climate Leadership Network,” said Tim Carter, president of Second Nature, the organization that monitors progress on the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments, in a prepared statement.

In addition, Bowdoin has joined Amherst, Hampshire, Smith and Williams colleges to fund NextEra Energy’s construction of a 75- megawatt solar project in Farmington. The $100 million project will support nearly 180 short-term jobs during the construction phase, and six fulltime permanent jobs. The solar panels will cover approximately 350 acres.

Once it goes online by the end of 2019, the power facility will be the largest solar array in the state, according to Bowdoin College.

The college’s own solar array built at Brunswick Landing in 2014, combined with rooftop solar panels at its Farley and Watson athletic facilities, is only a 1.2- megawatt system.

Bowdoin’s share of renewable energy credits from the new complex will offset close to half its annual electricity consumption — equivalent to 1,300 metric tons of greenhouse gases.

“Today at Bowdoin, we celebrate the dual milestones of carbon neutrality and this promising and innovative solar project with our partner colleges from Massachusetts, but we are far from done,” said Bowdoin College President Clayton Rose in a prepared statement. “In the coming year, we will be working with members of our campus community to put forward ambitious new plans at the college focused on greater sustainability achievements and environmental stewardship.


“In the meantime, it is a point of great pride that Maine will be home to this new source of clean solar energy and,” he added, “that for the second time in recent years, Bowdoin is helping to establish the largest solar facility in our state.”

In the fall, the college will kick off a campus-wide initiative to develop specific 2030 sustainability goals.

Meanwhile, Bowdoin College lists future projects it has committed to in efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions:

• When the Roux Center for the Environment opens next fall, serving as Bowdoin’s hub for the interdisciplinary study of the environment, it will be certified as LEED platinum. Among other sustainable features, it will have a green roof garden and 86 solar panels.

• The college is building a complex of four new passive house residence halls for upperclassmen. This type of energy-efficient building has thick — or “super” — insulation, triple-pane windows, and efficient air-exchange systems for heating and cooling, leading to a 50-percent reduction in energy use (compared to a more traditionally constructed building).

• Bowdoin will continue to convert more light fixtures to LED bulbs, weatherize more campus buildings, add hybrid and electric vehicles to its fleet, and install more energy efficient heating and cooling systems across campus.

Five colleges

BOWDOIN COLLEGE has joined Amherst, Hampshire, Smith and Williams colleges to fund Next- Era Energy’s construction of a 75- megawatt solar project in Farmington. The solar panels will cover approximately 350 acres.

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