Princeton University is in the process of installing a solar collector field to help the college reduce its carbon footprint. “It’s our responsibility to keep forging ahead, and we see this plan for solar energy as one of several next steps,” said Michael McKay, Princeton’s vice president for facilities. If all goes well, the construction on the 27 acres in West Windsor Township will be completed by summer 2012. According to Princeton University, “the collector field should generate 8 million kilowatt-hours per year—enough to power the equivalent of 700 homes or, at Princeton, enough to meet 5.5 percent of the total annual campus electrical needs. The system, comprising of 16,500 photovoltaic panels, is expected to be one of the largest single installations at a U.S. college or university.”
The power systems will be mounted on 4- to 5- foot poles facing south; 80 percent of the panels will contain a global positioning system to track the movements of the sun, maximizing the amount of sunlight captured. The power will be delivered to Princeton’s campus by a cable installed under the canal and Lake Carnegie. This is not the first solar panel project the University has undergone; in 2009 they installed 5,000 panels on the roof of the Research Collections and Preservation Consortium on the Forrestal Campus and 216 panels on the newly constructed Frick Chemistry Laboratory on the main campus. These initiatives are part of the schools Sustainability Plan implemented in 2008 to reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
The project was made possible due to a combination of a “federal grand and favorable depreciation treatment available though the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) as well as revenue that will be realized through New Jersey’s Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) program.” Princeton University has teamed up with SunPower on an eight year lease, which will in turn help the University pay for the solar field.