Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) and Rider University cut the ribbon on a new .74-megawatt (MW) solar farm on the University’s Lawrenceville campus on Thursday, October 20.
The 2.3-acre plot, which sits adjacent to the northbound lanes of Interstate 95 in the northwest corner of the campus, includes more than 2,600 ground-mounted crystalline solar panels that are connected directly to PSE&G’s power grid and provide enough electricity to power about 125 homes annually.
It is the first such project on the campus of a New Jersey university, according to Al Matos, PSE&G’s vice president for Renewables and Energy Solutions, who also said that PSE&G owns the solar system and provides Rider University with a lease payment for the parcel of land it occupies.
“The Rider University solar project shows how the benefits of solar power extend far beyond just producing clean, carbon-free electricity,” Matos explained about PSE&G’s Solar 4 All™ program, the utility’s flagship solar effort to help New Jersey reach its solar energy goals while creating jobs and fostering economic development.
“Solar 4 All lease payments can unlock the value of unused parcels of land like this one while also creating good jobs, helping solar-related businesses take root and developing the New Jersey solar market in a cost-effective way,” Matos said.
Though Rider does not draw its electric energy from the solar panels, sustainability and energy conservation have become a key priority to the University community, and collaborating with PSE&G is another manifestation of that ideal, according to Mike Reca, associate vice president for Facilities and Auxiliary Services at Rider.
“This project further demonstrates Rider’s continuing commitment to sustainability as well as the spirit of collaboration with other green organizations such as PSE&G,” said Reca, who also commended the dozens of Rider students who turned out for the ceremony. “It’s heartening to use to see such a strong show of support from them.”
Among the students present were a dozen of Rider’s Eco-Reps, a student organization committed to sustainability awareness and practice. Sophomore Jillian Spratt, an Environmental Science major, said Rider’s participation in the program was a point of pride to her.
“When I see something like this happen, and with so many people paying attention, I feel like our efforts have paid off,” said Spratt, of Rutherford, N.J. “Rider is the only university in the state doing this, and at makes me feel good to be part of our sustainability efforts.”
Rider pledged to meet the United State Green Building Council’s standards several years ago when President Mordechai Rozanski signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, directing that all further new campus construction would be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified.
Rider’s West Village Residence Halls, which opened in fall 2009, were certified LEED Silver shortly after their completion. Earlier this fall, the University opened North Hall, a 21,000-square-foot academic facility also expected to earn LEED Silver certification.
“I think PSE&G and Rider University are on the cutting edge of technology in New Jersey and in Mercer County,” said Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, who was joined by a cast of elected officials that included Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo, Mercer County Freeholder Pat Colavita and Lawrence Township Councilman Michel Powers.
Solar 4 All is a nationally recognized program that is developing 80 solar megawatts – enough power to serve about 13,000 average-sized New Jersey homes. It is structured so the financial benefits – the value of the solar credits (SRECs), federal tax credits and the sale of the solar energy and capacity– are returned to customers to minimize the cost of the program. PSE&G uses leading solar energy companies to help deploy solar systems across the state. Alteris Renewables developed the Rider project.