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UMass Amherst to Save $6.2 Million with Solar Energy

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is installing solar panels in a move that will reduce its electricity costs by $6.2 million over the next 20 years.

Comprising 15,576 photovoltaic panels in eight installations, the project will provide 5.5 megawatts of power at no upfront cost to the university.

"The eight solar panel installations — six on rooftops and two above existing asphalt parking lots — will be engineered and constructed by Brightergy, a national energy company with offices in Charlestown, MA," according to a news release. "Brightergy, through its partnership with Sol Systems, arranged for project finance, ownership and ongoing maintenance of the solar installations with ConEdison Solutions for up to 20 years. The university will buy all of the electricity from the $16 million project for direct use on campus through a power purchasing agreement. The installations will be completed by the end of 2016."

The project will also provide a boost for STEM education on campus, with Brightergy offering presentations and career mentoring and access to one of the installations for use as a leraning lab. The agreement with the company will also provide $41,000 in educational funds for students and internships for four students in the next three years.

The move is part of a larger sustainability campaign at UMass Amherst, which has cut emissions by 23 percent since 2005 and launched initiatives supporting alternative transportation, composting and more sustainable food, among others.

The move also furthers a tradition of on-campus energy production at UMass Amherst, which already generates 78 percent of its electricity a combined heat and power plant. The new solar project will account for approximately one-fifth of the energy needs not supplied by that existing plant.

"The University of Massachusetts Amherst prides itself on being a sustainability leader, serving as a model for campuses and communities across the country," said Shane Conklin, associate vice chancellor for facilities and campus services, in a prepared statement. "We are very excited to be moving forward with what we view as an economic, environmental and educational win for our entire community."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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