This paper aims to outline the most profitable means of installing a large scale photovoltaic solar electricity array for use by the energy and sustainability departments of Bates College and ultimately for the benefit of college as a whole. In recognizing the college’s goal of global stewardship, we believe that decreasing emissions should be a top priority. Photovoltaic solar panels have the ability to transform sunlight into readily available electricity that can be utilized by the college, resulting in the potential for both decreased demand from the grid and decreased carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. On top of this, current government incentives coupled with an advantageous financing program for non-profit entities make it realistic for the college to benefit financially from such an installation. This financing scheme, known as a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), is the recommended approach that best aligns with the goals of the college. It utilizes an outside investor who is responsible for funding all solar installation costs and fees, in turn initiating a binding payback agreement for an extended period (between 6 and 30 years) with Bates. During this time, the college has the opportunity to directly utilize the electricity or benefit from the net metering incentives that are currently offered in the state of Maine. Our methodological approach in developing this feasibility study involved building an understanding of the colleges roles and options within a PPA, identifying potential on and off campus installation locations based on researched and proven criteria, and calculating the savings potential for different scenarios that the college can utilize within a PPA to develop a comprehensive recommendation. We have found that Bates College, as a non-profit institution, is a perfect candidate for acquiring funding through a PPA. Our analysis and assessments of potential locations has revealed that Bates has a number of on campus building rooftops that are well suited to hold a large scale solar installation and optimize behind the meter electricity production, with the potential for upwards of 1 MW of solar capacity. We have also identified a number of off campus locations within a ten mile radius of the Bates campus that have the potential for a large scale photovoltaic solar installation. These off campus locations would require distribution first to the electricity grid, through which Bates would benefit from the acquisition of net metering credits as opposed to direct on campus electricity generation and utilization. Savings under a number of different scenarios, including both long and short term payback periods, high and low buyback scenarios, and varying solar productivity levels are outlined in this report for both on and off campus installations. The unpredictable nature of photovoltaic solar panels due to changing weather patterns made it necessary to base our analysis and calculations in potential scenarios that we believe could feasibly occur during the lifetime of a solar array. Our conclusions in this study express that the college is best suited to utilize a large scale campus rooftop system financed through an extended (25 to 30 year) Power Purchase Agreement to best optimize profits and meet the colleges zero net cost goal. As outlined in our report, an on campus installation coupled with a long term power purchase agreement would result in noticeable profit to the college, direct electricity delivery to campus buildings, beneficial social and academic value, and decreased carbon emissions that Bates is responsible for. In the future, we believe it is worthwhile to pursue the off campus options that we have outlined in this report to optimize the production of solar electricity, further reducing emissions while increasing profit.
McReynolds, Mac; Marcus, Matt; and Martell, Jack, "Evaluating the Feasibility of a Large Scale Photovoltaic Solar Installation for Bates College" (2016). Community Engaged Research Reports. 32.