Williams faculty, students and staff,
We’re pleased to announce that the Farmington (Maine) Solar Project, in which Williams is a consortium partner, became operational this week.
The Project’s 76 megawatt (MW) solar array, which started delivering power into the New England grid on Wednesday, is expected to generate approximately 140,000 megawatt hours (MWh) in renewable energy during its first year of operation. Williams and our partners at Amherst, Smith, Hampshire and Bowdoin Colleges created a consortium to work with partners NextEra Energy in support of their creation of the facility—the largest solar project in New England.
The college’s share of solar power from the Farmington project equates to approximately 90 percent of our purchased electricity needs. The “clean electrons” from the solar farm will flow to households throughout the New England grid, increasing the proportion of renewable energy in our region’s overall mix. Our deep involvement in this effort through a consortial approach enabled NextEra to increase their planned size for the facility and thus empowered Williams and our partner schools to make a meaningful contribution toward decarbonizing the region as a whole.
The Farmington project is also a major step in the college’s own efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and advance our latest sustainability goals, including:
- An 80% or greater reduction in the college’s scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2035, compared to 1990-91
- Sourcing 100% of the college’s purchased electricity from renewables
- Maintaining carbon neutrality, while working toward net-zero emissions
- Partnering with local communities on off-campus greenhouse gas emission reduction projects
Williams will continue to purchase Renewable Energy Credits to offset the remaining carbon emissions from our campus operations, while we move ahead with long-term planning to decarbonize our own campus power plant.
Here are some fast facts about the project:
- Annual emissions reductions: The facility’s 140,000 MWh output is equivalent to a reduction of 69,136,060 pounds in CO2 emissions annually, based on the EPA’s 2019 eGrid (Emissions and Generation Resource Integrated Database) calculation for New England.
- Power output: The project will generate enough electricity to power more than 17,000 homes year-round, based on an average for home power consumption across the northeast of 8.2 MWh/year.
- Tax revenue: The project will deliver over $17M in local and state tax revenues over its estimated 30-year project lifespan, as well as 1-2 permanent jobs (~500 temporary jobs were created during the construction phase). It also helps diversify revenue and income sources in one of Maine’s least-populous counties.
- Quick comparison: The approximately 490 acre Farmington array is slightly larger than Williams’ entire 450 acre campus (excluding Hopkins Forest). And its 140,000 MWh output is roughly 1,900 times greater than the power generated by our ground-mounted and rooftop systems at the Class of 1966 Environmental Center.
While taking everyone to rural Maine to visit the site is neither practical nor sustainable, we would love for you to get a sense of what 76 megawatts of renewable energy looks like. Feel free to explore the drone footage and still photos, courtesy of NextEra.
We’re already looking ahead to our next goals. It feels especially important to do so as we mark yesterday’s start to this year’s U.N. Climate Conference, COP26. As we do, we also invite you to pause with us to mark the milestone at Farmington, and to thank our many colleagues and project partners who worked to bring that project to life.
Dukes Love, Provost and Class of 1969 Professor of Economics
Tanja Srebotnjak, Director of the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives
Mike Evans, Associate Director of the Zilkha Center