WEST WINDSOR, N.J. (June 26,2012) – An 8-megawatt solar project being installed by the Mercer County Improvement Authority (MCIA) on the campus of Mercer County Community College (MCCC) will deliver significant savings on greenhouse gas emissions, while also achieving savings to the college of approximately $15 million over the next 15 years at no upfront cost to the school.
The project will have a positive impact on the state’s carbon footprint. Each year, the project will offset 7,500 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, a major source of harmful greenhouse gas. In addition, it will offset the emissions of 20 tons of sulfur dioxide and 8.5 tons of nitrogen oxides, which cause smog and acid rain and trigger asthma and other respiratory ailments.
“At MCCC, we have long made sustainability a core tenet of our institution and of our educational curriculum,” said Dr. Patricia Donohue, president of MCCC. “A large impetus for this project was abiding by our previous commitment to leading the way in reducing our carbon footprint. As a signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), we have pledged to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and integrate sustainability into the curriculum, and that is exactly what we are accomplishing with this project.”
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In addition to the environmental benefits of the project, the financial savings for MCCC are important. The ground-mounted solar system, which will be installed on college-owned property on the east side of the college’s West Windsor campus, is expected to meet 70 percent of the college’s electricity needs, yielding an approximate savings of $1 million per year on electricity expenses.
Furthermore, after 15 years, the MCIA and MCCC have several options that, if acted upon, could allow for an additional 10 years of energy savings to the college.
MCCC is one of many schools nationally that are using solar resources to promote the health of the environment, save money and train students. According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, there are 473 solar photovoltaic installations on 295 campuses in 43 states and provinces in the United States.
Along with the other colleges nationally, MCCC joins two other local educational institutions that are turning to solar to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet energy demand. Princeton University is installing a 5.3-megawatt solar collector field on 27 acres it owns in West Windsor, and the Lawrenceville School, a prep school in nearby Lawrenceville, N.J., is hosting a six-megawatt solar system on 30 acres of its school’s campus.
The national trend of schools relying on solar energy can only be expected to increase as more state governments enact financial incentives such as renewable energy certificates to promote the implementation of renewable energy installations and as legislation is enacted to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases from traditional power sources.
Construction on the MCCC solar project is expected to begin this summer, with the system expected to be operational by the end of the year.
As pledged in the ACUPCC agreement to which MCCC was a signatory, the project will provide educational benefits as well. The system will foster academic opportunities for students interested in pursuing careers in solar/energy technology, engineering, sustainability and other programs. These are especially important considering that New Jersey is the second largest solar market in the nation after California and one of the 10 largest in the world according to the N.J. Board of Public Utilities. New Jersey's thriving solar industry has created more than 3,500 new "green collar" jobs.