The University of Massachusetts Amherst is installing more than 15,000 solar panels as part of a renewable energy initiative that will cut electricity costs by $6.2 million over 20 years.
Eight installations—six on campus rooftops and two above existing parking lots—will generate 5.5 megawatts of electrical power, the university says, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 31,000 non-metric tons of carbon dioxide. The total power from the installations is estimated to equal the annual electrical energy use of 900 Massachusetts homes.
The solar installations will be engineered and constructed by Brightergy. The university will buy all of the electricity from the $16 million project for direct use on campus through a power purchasing agreement.
Most of the power will come from the combined 11.6 acres of arrays on steel canopies to be built above parking lots at the Mullins Center and the North Residential Area. With a clearance of 13 feet, 6 inches, the canopies will provide shaded parking for cars and trucks.
Students will be given access to the Mullins Center parking lot solar array as a learning lab.
Rooftop installations will be on the Recreation Center, Computer Science Building, Champions Center, Fine Arts Center, police station and bus maintenance garage.
There are no up-front costs to the university for the solar arrays. ConEdison Solutions sells the electricity to the university at a rate well below market. The solar arrays will save the university $89,000 on electricity in the first year, and the savings will grow to average $310,000 per year and total $6.2 million over 20 years.
The installation is part of the school's continuing efforts to become more energy-efficient. It has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 23 percent since 2005
The university will continue to generate about 78 percent of its energy at its Combined Heat and Power plant on campus. The new solar power will replace about one-fifth of the remaining 22 percent.