2.3 MW Oberlin Solar: Small College, Big Power

The largest photovoltaic array on any college or university campus in the state of Ohio — nearly 2.3 megawatts (MW) — will soon arise at Oberlin College as part of the college’s overall commitment to sustainability, and to increasing the amount of electricity it draws from renewable energy sources. So says Rob Lamppa, Oberlin’s director of sustainability and energy management, who goes on to note that, in addition to the solar power systems already in operation at Oberlin, the new array will also provide research opportunities for students and faculty at the college in multiple disciplines.

PV arrays already operating on campus include a 59-kilowatt (kW) system on the roof of the Adam Joseph Lewis Center (AJLC) for Environmental Studies and the adjacent 101-kW parking pavilion array. The new array, covering about 10 acres of agricultural land, will consist of 7,722 polycrystalline photovoltaic panels bolted to a ground-mounted tracking system. With approximately 3 million kilowatt-hours of generating capacity per year — enough to power 400 to 450 homes — the system is expected to meet around 12 percent of the college’s annual consumption, moving Oberlin closer to its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025.

Oberlin College solar array, AJLC

image via Spear Point Energy

Oberlin has entered into a power purchasing agreement with Spear Point Energy on the 2.27-MW array; construction, which began in early May, is expected to be completed by the end of August.

Oberlin was  4one of the country’s first institutions of higher education to accept the goal of carbon neutrality as a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in 2006. The local community is on board too, as, in 2010, both the college and the city of Oberlin joined the Climate Positive Development Program, a joint initiative of the Clinton Climate Initiative.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.