NEW RUSSIA TWP. — Before long, sun shining on solar panels will generate some of the electricity flowing into the Oberlin Municipal Light and Power System, which serves some 3,000 customers, including Oberlin College.
Oberlin College entered into a power purchasing agreement with Spear Point Energy of Aspen, Colo., to purchase electricity from a 2.27-megawatt solar array.
SPG Solar, which has installed more than 70 megawatts of solar photovoltaic power systems nationwide, designed and is building the solar array.
It will generate about 3 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year, which is about 12 percent of the college’s annual consumption.
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An estimated two-thirds to three-quarters of the 7,722 solar panels have been installed, according to Rob Lamppa, the college’s director of sustainability and energy management.
As the sun passes overhead, the panels will gently turn to collect the energy, Lamppa said.
“It will be computer-controlled to track the sun,” he said.
The system will be monitored at all times, he said. When snow is forecast, the panels will be turned so they don’t collect as much snow, he said.
On Saturday, the public can get a glimpse of the solar array on land owned by Oberlin College west of Professor Street and south of Butternut Ridge Road in the free “Green Energy Ohio Tour.”
This is the 10th year that Oberlin College and area homeowners have participated in the tour, which allows people to network with friends and neighbors about renewable energy, energy efficiency and green design.
Oberlin’s guided tour takes place 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It begins at Oberlin College’s Adam Joseph Lewis Center, 122 Elm St. This tour is sponsored by Green Energy Ohio and the Oberlin Project.
Those who wish to participate are asked to register online, or call or email Sharon Pearson in advance at the Oberlin Project offices. The number is (440) 775-6473 and her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pearson said her favorite spot on the tour is the Adam Joseph Lewis Center, whose environmentally friendly features include a “living machine” of plants to treat waste from restrooms.
“It’s a building that can live in harmony with our natural resources,” she said.
As construction continues on the solar array, Lamppa said excitement is building as workers get ready to power it up.
Half of the panels will go online in the middle of October and the remainder will be generating electricity by Nov. 1, he said.
It will be one of the largest photovoltaic arrays in Ohio, and the biggest on any college or universities.
Lamppa said the developer took advantage of a 30 percent grant — or $2 million — in lieu of tax credits under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was President Barack Obama’s stimulus designed to help pull the economy out of recession. The cost of the entire project was $7 million, Lamppa said.
Steve Dupee, electric manager for the Oberlin Municipal Light and Power System, said the goal of building the solar array was to generate electricity at about the same cost as the rest of the municipal power system.
An added bonus is that the solar panels will be generating lots of energy during peak power usage in the summer, when purchased energy is more expensive, Dupee said.
By 2015, 90 percent of the system’s power will come from renewable sources, Dupee said. The approximate breakdown will be about 61 percent from landfill gas, 23 percent from hydroelectric, 3.1 percent from wind, 2.8 percent from solar, 8 percent from coal and 1 percent each from nuclear and natural gas.
The average monthly residential electric bill is $84 and the move to greener energy will result in some projected price increases, Dupee said.
“We’ll pay a little more now, but will be locked in long-term power supply arrangements,” he said.
Oberlin’s solar array by the numbers
- 2.27-megawatt solar array.
- 7722 polycrystalline photovoltaic panels.
- Covers approximately 11 acres.
- Estimated annual production 2.8 to 3.1 million kilowatt hours of electricity.
- Each row 3 panels wide.
- Approximately a half mile of underground cable connects the solar array to Oberlin Municipal Light and Power System grid.
Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or email@example.com.