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Brandeis installing solar panel arrays

Posted by Tom Coakley  November 9, 2009 09:30 AM

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In a few weeks, the Gosman Center at Brandeis University will be the site of one of the largest solar panel arrays in Massachusetts.

The 277 kilowatt solar system is part of the university’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to eventually make the campus carbon neutral and educate students and the surrounding community about energy use.

Construction on the solar system is set to begin this week and to last about three weeks, according to Janna Cohen-Rosenthal, the sustainability coordinator at Brandeis.

“Solar is pretty easy, it doesn’t require huge modifications to existing buildings,” Cohen-Rosenthal said, “that’s why we’re able to do it while the building is still being used.”

"It will be enough for about 10 percent of the building's energy use,’’ she said. “It's a big building."

Brandeis has partnered with Alteris Renewables for the design, engineering, and instillation of the system, and through an additional partnership with EOS Ventures, the university will not have to pay any upfront capital costs for the solar panels.

“EOS Ventures are going to buy the panels on behalf of Brandeis, and they’re going to own them,” said Bill Kanzer, director of marketing for Alteris. “And EOS and Brandeis have a contract by which Brandeis buys the electricity that’s produced by the solar panel.”

Kanzer said it is similar to Brandeis buying electricity from any other mainstream provider, but the solar panels will help reduce the school’s carbon footprint and cost less than normal energy because of government tax incentives and rebates.

“Our students really took the leadership role on this, and they were the ones who pushed us to look at this kind of financing model,” Cohen-Rosenthal said.

Brandeis is one of a handful of schools in the Northeast that has worked with Alteris to use solar energy. Kanzer said the company recently installed solar panels at Yale University and at some small private schools in Massachusetts. He said the solar panels are a growing trend in educational institutions.

“Schools in particular are forward-thinking, long term outlook institutions,” Kanzer said. “So they tend to be willing to adopt new technology and they tend to be up on the latest things, like the importance of mitigating our carbon footprint.”

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