BRUNSWICK — Bowdoin College achieved carbon neutrality two years ahead of schedule and announced a renewable energy project partnership that will create the largest solar array in the state, the school said last week.

The school announced its plan in 2009 to reach carbon neutrality by 2020, and in hitting the mark two years earlier, Bowdoin has reduced its carbon emissions by 29 percent. That number surpasses the institution’s initial goals when it joined more than 270 schools in the U.S. in signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment — there are now 500 schools in the accord.

“We celebrate the dual milestones of carbon neutrality and the promising innovative solar project with our partner colleges from Massachusetts, but we’re far from done,” Bowdoin College president Clayton Rose said in a news release.

The college partnered with four other liberal arts schools in Massachusetts — Amherst, Hampshire, Smith and Williams — to support the construction of a 75-megawatt solar project in Farmington, Bowdoin’s second expansion of clear solar energy in Maine.

“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,” Rose said.

He added it’s a point of pride for the college that Maine will be the home of another new source of clean energy and that Bowdoin, for the second time, is helping to establish the largest solar facility in the state.


The progress made by the school is the result of work by everyone at Bowdoin to understand the effects of climate change, to make adjustments in behavior and to think carefully about how the college can reduce its own impact on the environment, Rose said in a message to the Bowdoin community.

Scott Hood, senior vice president for communications and public affairs, said the project is the right thing for the college, and it’s happening at the right time.

“There is a deep sense of accomplishment about this, especially because we’re a couple of years ahead of schedule,” Hood said in a phone interview Monday. “We have a lot more work to, and we need to keep moving forward.”

In the coming year, Hood said, Bowdoin is going to take a closer look at other things it can do so that the college can announce an even-more ambitious campus plan and things it intends to do between now and 2030.

The Farmington solar complex is scheduled to come online late next year, and the college’s share of the renewable energy credits the solar array creates will offset nearly half of Bowdoin’s annual energy consumption and reduce Bowdoin’s own-source greenhouse gas emissions by more than 10 percent.

Matthew Orlando, the college’s senior vice president for finance and administration and treasurer, said the college will continue to aggressively pursue energy efficiency projects in Brunswick while also playing a role in the expansion of solar energy and green jobs in Maine.


“Working with our peer schools demonstrates the need for collaborative partnerships to address climate change,” Orlando said.

Bowdoin is expected to open the new $16.5 million Roux Center for the Environment on the Brunswick campus later this year, and the new solar partnership may provide additional educational and research opportunities for students and faculty who’ll work in the new center.

According to a news release, Bowdoin achieved carbon neutrality through a series of campus projects, including the installation of a co-generation turbine that produces electricity as a by-product of generating heat. The college converted buildings from oil to natural gas, insulated pipes and replaced thousands of light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs.

The biggest part of the college’s commitment to sustainability and supporting a clean energy future is Bowdoin’s investment in a large renewable energy project in western Maine.

The college’s onsite greenhouse gas emissions were originally calculated to be 16,236 metric tons in 2009; they were reduced to 11,620 metric tons in 2017.

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