Rutgers taps solar power as viable alternative energy source


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Photo by Edwin Gano |

As one of the nation’s largest campus renewable energy systems, the Livingston solar energy facility was projected to reduce carbon emissions by more than 1,300 tons yearly and save the University more than $200,000 in its first year.


When former Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick marked the official opening of the University’s seven-acre solar energy facility in October 2009, the 1.4 megawatt solar farm was projected to generate about 11 percent of Livingston campus’ electrical needs, according to a previous article in The Daily Targum.

As one of the nation’s largest college renewable energy systems, the Livingston solar energy facility was projected to reduce carbon emissions by more than 1,300 tons yearly and save the University more than $200,000 in its first year, according to the article.

“As an institution, Rutgers is a national leader in bringing environmentally sound practices to higher education,” McCormick told Rutgers Today in 2009. “By partnering with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to build this remarkable solar energy facility, Rutgers demonstrates our commitment to responsible environmental stewardship.”

This effort to save University funds and protect the environment has been fairly successful, according to a previous article in The Daily Targum.

Between June 2009 and May 2010, the solar projects located on Livingston campus resulted in about $225,000 in electricity savings.

The solar canopy stretching over Livingston’s parking lot helped Rutgers save about $135,000 in monthly utility expenses, according to the article.

More than five years after Rutgers’ initial foray into solar energy leadership, the University has continued to work toward cleaner energy on and off campus.

Dozens of students, New Brunswick and Piscataway residents and solar business representatives came to Rutgers on March 25 to hear from a panel of renewable energy experts and engage in discussion, according to MyCentralJersey.com

The New Jersey Public Interest Research Group's (NJPIRG) current student-led campaign aims to encourage New Brunswick, Piscataway, Newark and Camden city councils to reach a goal of producing 20 percent of electricity costs from solar energy in their respective communities, according to MyCentralJersey.com.

The panel and discussion, made possible by Environment New Jersey, NJPIRG Student Chapters, Rutgers Fossil Fuel Divestment and Rutgers Engineering Governing Council’s Sustainability Affair Committee, brought awareness to current solar energy efforts and provided a space for concerned community members to learn more about how they may affect residents, according to MyCentralJersey.com.

Nick Jermer, campaign coordinator for NJPIRG’s solar campaign and a Rutgers Business School junior, said the rising issue of climate change and the poor air quality in many New Jersey cities caused by dirty energy pollution, inspired the initiative.

More than 2,000 signatures have been collected so far for the campaign, which Jermer said hopes to reach 5,000 signatures by the end of next year.

“Solar energy as a growing alternative helps respond to some of these problems,” Jermer said. “(We are) building a coalition of small businesses and raising petitions for Rutgers students who are calling on (New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill) to make a commitment.”

Panelist Jeanne Fox, former president and commissioner of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, said due to extreme weather, cyberterrorism and cybersecurity, energy storage like the kind provided by solar energy will be essential to staying connected to power.

Since the inception of New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program more than a decade ago, the state has made itself a model for solar development through an “integrated approach” that includes a Solar Renewable Energy Certificates program that allows access to the SREC tracking system and marketplace, providing a revenue stream and long term financing options for solar installations, according to New Jersey Clean Energy.

David Beavers, campaign organizer of Environment New Jersey, reiterated New Jersey’s standings in the nation’s renewable energy community to MyCentralJersey.com, pointing to multiple factors that have put New Jersey at the forefront of the solar energy movement.

Currently, New Jersey boasts more than 33,000 solar installations, making it the third-most installed solar capacity in the nation, according to MyCentralJersey.com. With electricity costs in the state reaching more than 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, nearly four cents higher than the national average, both residents and institutions can and are benefitting from the savings permitted by solar installation.

“New Jersey owes its solar leadership to the forward-thinking vision of our energy policy experts, the quality of our research and the development facilities and the progressive nature of our citizens,” Beavers said.


Mary Ellen Cagnassola

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