Proposed layout of where the new solar field will be
Proposed layout of where the new solar field will be
Author: Marshall Green
Date: June 20, 2013

Houghton College and Smart Energy Capital have signed a power purchase agreement for the College to purchase solar electricity from a 2.5 megawatt solar system located on the College’s campus. Houghton College will become a site for the one of the largest solar systems on a college campus in New York State and in Western New York. 

"As a signatory to the President's Climate Commitment, Houghton has committed itself to carbon neutrality by 2050,” said Brian Webb, Sustainability Coordinator for Houghton College. “This solar project, and the accompanying purchase of renewable energy certificates, represents our first major step toward achieving that goal."

The project is possible thanks in part to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s NY-Sun initiative which this spring awarded $46 million for large-scale solar energy projects through the NY-Sun Competitive PV Program, which is administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Under this program the solar production will count towards the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.  Houghton will be able to claim carbon reductions through the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates as a result of the agreement with Smart Energy.

The solar installation will allow Houghton to see an instant 23% greenhouse gas reduction.  "The clean energy produced by this array is the equivalent of annually burning 1,500 fewer tons of coal or removing 400 cars from the road,” said Webb. 

It is anticipated that the renewable energy generated by the system will meet over one half of the college’s electric demands with an estimated savings of $1.3 million over the contract period. 

With improved technology, harnessing solar energy is not only a viable option, but also a financially and ecologically responsible one.

The system will be on a site just north of the campus along Rt. 19.  Houghton College is working with the Town Board of the Town of Caneadea to amend current zoning laws to allow for low impact renewable energy generating systems, such as this solar system, on the site.  Six weeks ago Webb petitioned the county legislators to pass a motion of support in amending the zoning law.  The support for the motion was overwhelming.  The next stage is to get an amendment from local municipal authorities.

 "As Christians, our faith compels us to act responsibly and wisely in our stewardship of the earth,” said Webb. “By making this solar facility a reality, Houghton will be able to replace nearly 3 million kWh of fossil fuel-generated electricity with clean, renewable energy straight from the sun. This translates into cleaner air and water, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and a healthier climate for future generations."

Under the terms of a power purchase agreement, Smart Energy Capital will fund all the development costs and sell 100% of the electricity that the system generates at a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour for 25 years.   In addition, all maintenance and upkeep throughout the 25-year contract will be handled by Smart Energy Capital. N.Y. State law requires power utilities to purchase excess power from alternative energy projects such as solar arrays.  Houghton will be able to sell off any excess power produced from the facility to RG&E at market value. 

The anticipated completion date for the project will be the end of 2013.