Hobart and William Smith are continuing efforts to enhance sustainability and achieve climate neutrality with the opening of the second of two local solar farms that together are generating up to five megawatts of electricity and represent one of the largest state-supported installations for a New York college or university.
“The HWS solar farms mark an important step for Hobart and William Smith Colleges in our work to reach climate neutrality by 2025,” says Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Tom Drennen, who is Chair of the Entrepreneurial Studies Program. “These sites not only are generating a significant amount of the Colleges’ electricity but will provide experiential learning and curricular opportunities for HWS students.”
Now generating electricity, the second installation features 7,800 panels on a 10-acre site in the Town of Seneca. The first site’s 7,600 panels in the Town of Geneva opened in November 2016. Together the sites cover the equivalent of 14.5 football fields.
Project funding was provided by New York State Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and Key Equipment Finance, one of the nation’s largest bank-held equipment finance companies and an affiliate of KeyCorp. Both solar farms were installed by the Wayne, PA-based company, Dynamic Energy Solutions, LLC (Dynamic Energy). NYSERDA’s investment complements “Finger Lakes Forward,” the region’s comprehensive strategy to revitalize communities and grow the economy.
At HWS, widespread sustainability efforts gained momentum in 2007 when the Colleges joined the Climate Leadership Network’s Carbon Commitment (formerly American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment), making HWS a charter member of the national effort. Drennen, who has spearheaded HWS’ sustainability efforts for two decades, credits students from his “Natural Resources and Energy Economics” class for helping to evaluate solar project proposals.
Among the Colleges’ most recent points of distinction in sustainability are: offering a minor in sustainable community development, launching a Sustainable Living and Learning Community for first-year students and achieving LEED Gold for the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts. Before establishing the solar installation, HWS was the first small liberal arts institution in New York to be powered solely by wind.
Recognized for leading the way in sustainability and environmental leadership, Hobart and William Smith were recently included The Princeton Review’s “Top 50 Green Colleges” in the nation. In addition, HWS has been named among higher education’s top leaders in campus sustainability, according to Sierra magazine’s 2017 “Cool Schools” ranking.