A college in New Jersey recently announced that it will install a large-scale solar array on its campus in order to provide academic opportunities for students who are looking to explore a career in solar energy technology.
The Mercer County Improvement Authority will install the solar system on the West Windsor Campus of Mercer County Community College. The eight-megawatt system will provide real-time data, giving students the ability to conduct cross-disciplinary studies related to alternative energy and sustainability.
Solar energy is catching on in New Jersey, which is second in the country in solar energy installations, behind only California and ahead of Arizona. The state has seen installations constructed everywhere from schools to office building, making the Garden State less less dependent on traditional electricity sources.
"We are excited about the multiple ways in which this solar project will foster academic opportunities for MCCC students," said Guy Generals, vice president for academic affairs. "Such learning opportunities will break new ground in community college education, preparing students for a world that is moving further away from expensive, dirty fossil fuels and closer to clean, renewable sources of energy."
The New Jersey solar installation planned for Mercer Community College will benefit the students, allowing the school to reallocate energy costs, which is one of the college's highest operating expenses. The savings will be funneled back into college programs and services that have been cut as a result of budget constraints.
The solar array will be ground-mounted and is expected to offset an estimated 70 percent of the college's West Windsor Campus' annual electricity usage, allowing the school to save more than $750,000 annually on electricity costs.
"Part of our mission is to meet the needs of business and industry by training our students for careers that are in demand," Generals said. "The solar industry is creating jobs for engineers, electricians, installers, computer scientists and landscape designers. The MCCC solar project will help meet this demand by providing hands-on training for students enrolled in our sustainability-related degree programs."
The solar system will be built on 45 acres, close to a 67-acre section of undeveloped land that is owned by the college on the east side of the campus. A lease purchase agreement has been approved that gives the MCIA ownership of the title of the solar system.
The project is expected to bring significant environmental benefits to the college and offset the emission of 7,500 tons of carbon dioxide, which is a major source of greenhouse gas. The solar system will also offset the emission of 20 tons of sulfur dioxide and 8.5 tons of nitrogen oxides, which causes smog, acid rain and triggers asthma and other ailments that affect the respiratory system.
KDC Solar, which is headquartered in Bedminster, New Jersey, and The Lawrenceville School recently cut the ribbon on the largest photovoltaic solar system at any secondary school in New Jersey. The system will generate approximately 9 million kilowatt hours of solar electricity annually.