Wesleyan Begins Using New Solar Array; 4,162 Panels To Help Power Microgrid

By Shawn R. Beals
Hartford Courant

Wesleyan University connected its new 4.5 acre, 750 kilowatt solar array to the campus electricity grid Tuesday

Wesleyan University turned on its new 4.5-acre, 750-kilowatt solar power array Tuesday, adding a new source of sustainable energy to its campus microgrid.

The 4,162 solar panels installed on Long Lane will provide energy for about 5 percent of the campus by generating about 1.2 million kilowatts of power each year, university officials said.

President Michael Roth said the system will be a source of daily power and a backup for emergencies. Wesleyan signed a power purchase agreement for the system with local solar developer Greenskies Renewable Energy.

"It's a very important asset as part of our electrical microgrid on campus," said Alan Rubacha, director of physical plants and capital projects at Wesleyan.

Adding the solar array to the two natural gas generators in its cogeneration system, Wesleyan now produces on campus about 85 percent of the energy it uses, Rubacha said.

Wesleyan officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday with Mayor Daniel Drew, Greenskies, state legislators and chamber of commerce members. The system had been turned on in short intervals for testing but officially became part of the campus electrical grid on Tuesday when Roth and recently retired Wesleyan Vice President John Meerts turned on the main switch.

Vice President for Finance and Administration Nathan Peters said the Long Lane array is Wesleyan's fourth solar project. Solar panels are installed on top of the parking structures at the Freeman Athletic Center, on the roof of the admissions building, and atop a residential building on Fountain Avenue.

Drew said he is proud of Wesleyan's efforts in renewable energy sources and said the new solar array "sets an example for other universities and communities."

Wesleyan said 80 of its 311 buildings are now connected to the internal electrical grid.

The Long Lane property is part of the land Wesleyan bought from the state in 2000 that has been undergoing environmental remediation since then. Roth said the idea for a solar farm on the site came up recently as Wesleyan was looking for new uses for the property.