Bowdoin College proposes solar complex to generate 8% of Brunswick campus electricity

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BRUNSWICK — Bowdoin College on Oct. 11 announced it would seek to build a 1,300-kilowatt solar power complex to generate about 8 percent of the electricity the college uses.

The facility as planned would be nearly eight times as large as the state’s largest solar energy installation at Thomas College, according to a release from Bowdoin.

Scott Hood, a college spokesman, said the project would cost an estimated $2 million to $4 million, but the exact price tag would not be clear until a design is completed.

The complex would be built in part on former Brunswick Naval Air Station land acquired by the college through a public benefit conveyance. The Navy base closed in 2011, and as part of its decommissioning, educational institutions such as Bowdoin were able to request former Navy properties.

Under the proposal to create the solar energy system at Bowdoin, SolarCity Corp. of San Mateo, Calif., would finance, build, own and maintain the solar installations, and Bowdoin would purchase all the generated power.

The facility would generate approximately 1.6 million kilowatt hours of electricity through an array of panels located on the roofs of Watson Arena and Farley Field House, as well as on land at the former Navy base, Hood said.

The project would require approval from local, state and federal agencies.

Bowdoin President Barry Mills said in a statement that the project would be economical for the college and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. It also “underscores Bowdoin’s continuing commitment to the responsible stewardship of our environment,” he said.

Everett “Brownie” Carson, former executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine and a Bowdoin alumnus, lauded the proposal in a release.

“This is an important step forward for renewable energy in Maine and I am pleased to see Bowdoin College taking such an environmental leadership position,” he said. “I hope this project inspires others to make significant investments in renewables in the state.”

The project would be another step in the college’s goal of becoming “carbon neutral.” Previous projects included installing a cogeneration steam turbine in the school’s central heating plant and installing solar thermal panels on the roof of Thorne Dining Hall and the Schwartz Outdoor Leadership Center.

Sidebar Elements

Bowdoin College is seeking to generate solar electricity by placing solar panels on roofs of the Farley Field House, left, and Watson Arena, right.