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Hampshire College Solar Project

Solar Photovoltaic Arrays: Plan to generate up to 100% of electricity (published in Spring, 2015)

In 2007, the College signed the Presidential Climate Commitment, which includes our goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2022. Through the Climate Action Plan, we have identified many pathways toward this goal, including renewable energy, demonstrating how the pursuit of carbon neutrality enhances the mission of the College.

In February 2015, the Hampshire College Board of Trustees approved a plan to generate nearly 90% of our electricity from ground-mounted solar arrays, with a goal to reach 100% through additional panels on rooftops, parking lot canopies, and research-oriented panels on active farmland. 

As part of this on-site solar project, we are working to develop strategies that maintain and enhance ecosystem services, promote research and education, and provide the solar industry with a new paradigm to inspire land stewardship, societal responsibility, and beauty. In addition, soils under PV arrays will be preserved at the minimum, and ideally improved, for potential future agricultural use, through methods that increase organic matter storage, soil biodiversity, and nutrient levels.

Finally, we believe that our choice to generate clean energy on-campus will help to reduce the impacts of extractive industries, including hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for natural gas, construction of new pipelines, effects of oil spills, and destruction of mountain-tops for coal mining. 

On site solar may supply nearly 100% of electricity to the campus. Hampshire College is working through regulatory and feasibility studies with a team of solar experts, including Solar City, Solar Design Associates, and Gerhlicher Solar. Through a power purchase agreement, Hampshire College anticipates significant annual savings on its utility bill. Some of these savings will be earmarked for energy efficiency projects as well as for academic research. 

Our Commitments:

  • Through the Presidential Climate Commitment and our Climate Action Plan, Hampshire College is committed to achieving carbon neutrality and demonstrating how the pursuit of carbon neutrality enhances the mission of the College.
  • By generating locally-produced, clean energy on-campus, we are consciously choosing to reduce impacts of fracking, pipelines, oil spills, mountain-top removal coal mining, and nuclear power in someone else’s backyard.
  • Hampshire College will develop strategies that promote co-existence of renewable energy with agricultural land use that will be a valuable model for landowners in the region. We will explore opportunities to maintain and enhance ecosystem services, promote research and education, and provide the solar industry with a new paradigm to inspire land stewardship, societal responsibility, and beauty.
  • Hampshire College will strive to meet two complementary goals: “Sustainable Food, Produced Right Here” and “Sustainable Energy, Produced Right Here.”

Guiding Principles for Developing PV Arrays on Campus:

  • Every phase of the project, from evaluating potential PV sites to long-term monitoring of ecosystems, will be educational for the community.
  • Evaluation of sites for potential solar arrays will include assessment of current land use, future opportunities, and value to the campus community for other purposes, including to recreation, agriculture, serenity, and wildlife habitat.
  • PV arrays will be designed and constructed to preserve or improve ecosystem services, such as improving soils, increasing biodiversity, providing habitat buffers and corridors, improving water quality, and enhancing wildlife habitat.
  • Soils under PV arrays will be preserved at the minimum, and ideally improved, for potential future agricultural use, through methods that increase organic matter storage, soil biodiversity, and nutrient levels.
  • The PV project will provide substantial savings in terms of reduced future energy costs with no financial outlay from the College.
  • A designated portion of the cost savings will be used to support campus sustainability projects, such as the Sustainable Revolving Fund (SURF) and student and faculty research projects.
  • Project development and construction will be closely monitored by an appointed committee composed of students, staff, and faculty members to ensure above goals are met.
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