Members of the HWS community and area residents gathered on Thursday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the Colleges’ new solar farm,located at 2826 Rt. 14 North in the Town of Geneva. Now generating electricity, the site is the first of two farms that will help HWS achieve climate neutrality by 2025.
Together the two sites – the largest solar installation at any institution of higher education in New York State – will provide students with hands-on learning experiences. Generating five megawatts of power and covering the equivalent of 14.5 football fields, the project will be one of the top 10 largest solar projects on college and university campuses in the U.S., according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
“This solar farm behind us marks the next step in the line of impressive environmental advances for our city and our region. For Hobart and William Smith, this is a notable achievement toward our goal of climate neutrality, delivering 50% of the Colleges’ power,” said President Mark D. Gearan, a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. “On behalf of Hobart and William Smith Colleges and the many, many hardworking individuals involved in the planning and execution of this project, I am deeply grateful for what we have achieved and exceedingly proud of the precedent it sets for the future.”
During his remarks, Gearan highlighted the significant collaboration among the Colleges, Town of Geneva, the solar firm Dynamic Energy and the Malcuria family, owners of the property.
In attendance at the ceremony were Geneva Town Supervisor Mark Venuti, who offered remarks, property owner Patrick Malcuria and Scott Starr of Dynamic Energy. There were also 60 students and several faculty members from the Colleges’ Sustainable Living and Learning Community program, a specialized First-Year Seminar focused on sustainability education and community building.
“I really want to emphasize that because of the leadership of HWS and because of New York State incentives, we were able to pull this all together and make this solar farm a reality,” said Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Thomas Drennen, who has spearheaded HWS’ sustainability efforts for nearly 20 years and is co-chair of the Climate Task Force along with Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer Carolee White.
Drennen also challenged the students to imagine and develop the next sustainability effort at HWS, crediting Area Coordinator Noah Lucas ’13 and Maeve Donnelly ’13 for helping to initially bring wind power energy to campus. He also noted students from his “Natural Resources and Energy Economics” class for helping to evaluate solar project proposals.
The Route 14 solar farm has more than 7,600 solar panels, each rated at 330W, or sufficient to operate up to 10 overhead fluorescent lights at full solar input. The second array, located on Gates Road in the Town of Seneca, will have another 8,600 panels. A grant from NYSERDA helped to support the projects.
As a charter member of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, the Colleges have committed to achieving climate neutrality (net zero emissions) by 2025. In 2007, Clancy Brown ’09 initiated an effort for HWS to gain membership.
Currently, 100 percent of the Colleges’ electricity is from wind power. HWS became the first small liberal arts institution in New York to be powered solely by wind.