Like a shimmering bed of Onyx, more than 130 sleek black solar panels now adorn the roof of the service building, creating an on-site renewable electricity system.
The installation of the solar array was the culmination of an individual study course beginning in the spring of 2020 and led by Chad Jones, associate professor of botany and environmental studies, who teamed up with Rocky Ackroyd ’83 and eight students to craft a plan and then navigate the challenges of local building rules and regulations.
Ackroyd, who owns GreenSun, a Maine-based solar company, had been talking to Jones for several years about different ways to enhance sustainability education at Conn. In 2019, Ackroyd brought a portable solar array to campus to demonstrate its capabilities and spark interest among students.
“It has been amazing to have students, alumni, staff, and faculty all working together on this project to bring solar energy generation to campus,” Jones said. “It has been an amazing learning experience for the students and I know it has been for me.”
Throughout the course, students gained a comprehensive understanding of the technology, planning, regulatory and installation layers of an effective solar project.
“I think installing solar panels throughout Conn’s campus is important because it provides a long term solution to reducing greenhouse gases,” said Koby Giglietti ’21, an environmental studies major and economics minor. “Initiatives like this also send an important message that Conn is truly committed to the values it espouses.”
As a 53-kW system, the new solar array will generate approximately two-thirds of the power required by the service building. Students from the individual study course who graduated in 2020 returned to campus for the installation, including Anna Laprise ’20—who now works at Ackroyd’s solar company—Nate Baretta ’20 and Ashlyn Healey ’20.
Funding for the solar array was provided by the College’s sustainability revolving fund, which is dedicated to projects that save money long-term and thus can pay back into the fund over time. The cost savings on the College’s electricity bill will be invested back into the revolving fund until the cost of the project is paid back in full, meaning those funds can then be used again for future sustainability projects.
Margaret Bounds, who serves as assistant director of sustainability, suggested that this unprecedented process and collaborative approach can definitely be repeated in the future as the College continues to pursue green technology wherever it can.
“Reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our electricity use is one of the key goals of our campus sustainability plan, and it is really exciting that this collaboration between students, faculty, staff and alumni could be a model for more solar projects on campus,” Bounds said.