TRACKING TRENDS : New Solar Farm To Save Green At Cape Cod Community College
BARNSTABLE, Mass. (AP) — By the time students return to Cape Cod Community College, they could be working under lights powered by the sun.
A large solar farm, several smaller photovoltaic arrays and an innovative wind energy project installed over the past five months on the college’s West Barnstable campus are expected to save more than $100,000 a year in electricity costs, according to college officials.
“The goal here is twofold: Number one, we want to reduce our use of fossil fuels,” said Dixie Norris, college vice president of finance and administration. “Number two, as much if not more, we need to reduce the cost of our electricity because it keeps going up and takes away from what we can do for our students.”
The projects, which include 660 kilowatts of solar power and a 5-kilowatt, vertical-axis wind energy generating device, are located on land or roofs owned by the state but Sandwich-based Turning Mill Energy, which will own the projects, has a license to access the property.
The solar panels and wind generator are intended to equal the generating capacity of a 232-foot wind turbine that was nixed two years ago by the Old King’s Highway Regional Historic District Commission.
“They’re in place of the wind turbine because the generation of electricity is roughly the same,” Norris said.
Turning Mill will sell power from the panels and wind energy generator to the college for 10.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, or 3.1 cents less than the college’s current supply price of 13.4 cents, Norris said. In the past fiscal year the college used nearly 4.22 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and would have saved $130,775 if the new power sources had been operating, she said.
The goal is to provide the college with a 20 percent savings, said Allen Giles, president of Turning Mill.
That will be accomplished through savings from the on-site power generation and by providing the college with credits from other projects Turning Mill owns and operates, he said.
The college has the option after five years of buying the on-campus projects from Turning Mill at a starting price of $2.6 million. The buyout price is reduced each year thereafter.
The wind energy generator, to be installed on top of a stairwell in the college’s gymnasium, is designed to work in conjunction with solar panels mounted on the gym and on adjacent facilities and a maintenance building, Giles said. The idea is that when it is windiest it is often not sunny, and when it is sunny there is often little wind.
“They’re supporting each other,” he said. The wind energy device has a number of moving parts but little of the height or potential for neighborhood opposition of a large wind turbine.
Turning Mill will collect information on how the two technologies work together for potential future applications, much as it did when an earlier version of the wind energy generator was installed on top of Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, Giles said.
The device is slightly larger than the one at the maritime academy, but is still expected to sit only 20 feet above the existing roof, according to plans submitted to the town’s Old King’s Highway Historic District Committee.
Solar panels installed on top of about 24 parking spaces in one of the college’s parking areas are also being tested to see whether the application will work on a wider scale, Giles said.
The carport topped with 264 solar panels is designed to withstand high winds and heavy snow. It is tilted toward the center so that snow will not slide onto cars or people, Giles said. The carport is also designed so that snow plows can easily maneuver beneath it, he said.
Once the carport is tested during some serious winter weather, more carports could be installed on other parts of campus, he said.
The total cost of all the projects will come to more than $4 million, Giles said, adding that an investment tax credit through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helps make it affordable for the company.
Turning Mill used anticipated revenue from the sale of power to the college and from solar renewable energy certificates from the state to secure capital through a loan from the Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod, Giles said.
Some neighbors have expressed concerns.
In an Aug. 8 letter to the college, the town’s historic district committee asked that the college plant a vegetative buffer as soon as possible. William Plikaitis, who lives across Route 132, said he was surprised when construction began and again one morning and the sun came through his previously shaded bathroom window.
“They weren’t a good neighbor about it,”’ he said.
Plikaitis said he is all for solar power and hopes it works well for the college but said he also hopes they will address concerns regarding the buffer zone.