MIDDLETOWN — Middlesex Community College unveiled a solar energy system during a ribbon-cutting event Thursday attended by Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State College and Universities system, and representatives from the college, CSCU central office, Sunlight Solar Energy, and Middletown officials.
The new energy system will reduce MxCC’s reliance on utility-generated power and is expected to offset about 8.5 percent of the annual electricity consumption on campus, saving an average of $11,000 per year over the next 20 years, according to a press release.
“This project is a great example of how a public and private partnership can work. Bigger and better things can happen when you work together for a common goal,” and every dollar saved at a college can go to students in other areas, as students are my priority,” Ojakian said in a prepared statement.
Construction for the ground-mounted solar energy system began earlier this year and totals 355 solar panels located behind Founders Hall on the Middletown campus. Installed by Sunlight Solar Energy of New Haven, the 120.4kW DC power system was energized during the past week, the release said.
“The system’s total annual production is 164,100 kilowatt hours and is estimated to offset 42 tons of CO2 emissions — that’s the equivalent of driving over 100,000 fewer miles in your car, or carbon sequestered by 49.5 acres of US forests in one year,” Brendan Smith, design manager at Sunlight Solar Energy, explained in the release.
In 2015, former MxCC President Anna Wasescha spearheaded a sustainability effort with the college’s first climate action plan that was the inspiration for the statewide solar energy project. CSCU then entered into 12 power purchase agreements to purchase 100-percent green solar electricity at a fixed discounted rate at nine of the CSCU institutions, according to the college.
CSCU and MxCC also partnered with Connecticut Green Bank and Onyx Renewables for the project. MxCC paid noting up front for the system and purchases only the power generated. The cost of solar power is less than the cost of power from a utility company and is at a fixed rate for 20 years, ensuring an increase in savings as the cost of Connecticut grid power increases over time.
“This is a long time coming, and it’s amazing,” Christine Witkowski, an environmental science professor at MxCC, said in the release. “It is also a great opportunity for students to learn from the solar panels. We already had classes out here measuring and studying them.”
Several students from her classes also attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, including Nicholas Nettis of Middletown. “We learn about everything in class from pollution in water to renewable energy, which I think is a good thing,” he said.