Installation of solar panels began June 1 on the sun-soaked roof of Kirby Sports Center. The approximately 470-kilowatt (kW) solar array will power operations at Kirby. The solar installation is expected to generate around 540 megawatt-hours (MWh) of clean, renewable energy annually. Over its lifetime, the solar array will offset 9,625 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO 2), or the equivalent of taking more than 2,000 cars off the road.

Increasing renewable energy on campus will not only help the College in its goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2035, but it will also provide experiential learning opportunities for students. Faculty will integrate the project into courses, providing students a deeper understanding and a real-world example of solar at work.

rendering of Solar Panels on Kirby Sports Center

A rendering of a solar panel array on the roof of Kirby Sports Center.

“This project is intended to visually articulate to the Lafayette community and visitors the College’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality and use the campus as a living laboratory,” says Delicia Nahman, director of sustainability. 

There are also plans to add an educational viewing station near Markle parking deck, which will provide visitors to the College information about the project and how it supports the College’s commitment to sustainability.

The College engaged CustomerFirst Renewables for preliminary development and contracted with Pfister Energy, a top commercial solar developer and EPC based in Hawthorne, New Jersey, and Greenskies Clean Energy, a leader in commercial renewable energy solutions. Pfister Energy will be responsible for engineering and construction, and Greenskies will finance and manage the solar operations. Together, Greenskies and Pfister Energy are providing internship positions to Lafayette students for a five-year duration.

Emily Ross ’22, a chemical engineering major with a minor in environmental science, worked as a project intern during spring 2021 for the design and engineering phase. “I’m hoping to pursue a career in renewable energy after graduation, so getting a close-up look at this process is an exciting and informative opportunity,” Ross says. 

“Greenskies is pleased to partner with Pfister to help Lafayette achieve their sustainability goals and provide valuable internship opportunities to the student body,” says Stanley Chin, president and CEO of Greenskies. “Investing in solar energy is the easiest and single most cost-effective way for large institutions to reduce their carbon emissions.”

“Pfister Energy is excited to be a part of this project and proud of the benefits it will produce for the Lafayette College community,” says Wayne Pfisterer, president of Pfister Energy.

The project is expected to be completed in September this year.

Office of Sustainability

Sustainability is a core value at Lafayette

Lafayette’s campus operates as a living laboratory, providing students the opportunity to conduct research and explore and test new models of sustainable systems.

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Categorized in: Faculty and Staff, Featured News, News and Features, STEM, Sustainability

4 Comments

  1. Martin Adams '14 says:

    @Jim Malley, while it certainly is not a continuous source of power, did you know that coal, gas and nuclear-powered steam cycle plants have capacity factors of at most 80%? Maintenance and service intervals prevent plants from being used at higher rates. In more and more cases, plants are also not scheduled to run as they are more expensive to run. For instance, some gas peaker plants are used at less than 20% CF? Additionally, fossil plants are simply no longer an option in terms of economics (and climate compatibility to boot).

    @Francis Mustaro it is true that roof-top installs are more expensive than centralized solar farms but one does save on the transmission costs. In addition, students get to see first-hand how grid-integration works, as well as how micro-grids can be organized etc. There is value to this. In addition, the <500kWp plant is quite small so the cost premium shouldn't be significant.

  2. JIm Mallay '59 says:

    An immensely important project. I hope it is stressed that this power is available for less than 30 percent of the time during its use. This is not the steady power available from a nuclear or fossil plant.

  3. Francis Mustaro says:

    What kind of ROI will this provide to the College after all- in costs are considered, i.e. power cost savings?

    1. Katrin Neitz says:

      Thank you for your interest in this project. While there is a slight cost to the College, we see the experiential learning opportunities (academic integration and internships) as worth the investment.

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