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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Solar panel installation under way on Gosman roof

Published: November 13, 2009
Section: News

Solar: Pressure cleaning of the roof of Gosman Sports and Convocation Center and construction of the solar panels began Thursday..<br /><i>PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot</i>

Solar: Pressure cleaning of the roof of Gosman Sports and Convocation Center and construction of the solar panels began Thursday..
PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

The installation of solar panels on the roof of the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center began Thursday and is expected to take three weeks. The system, which will be one of the largest solar panel arrays in the state, will be fully operational by the end of December.

The solar panels are being built as part of a power purchase agreement, with the financing for the panels being provided by EOS Ventures. The university will buy the energy produced by the panels from EOS instead of from a regular electrical utility.

The contract with EOS is expected to save the university nearly one million dollars over the lifetime of the array.

“If we had bought the system outright, we would be paying millions of dollars,” Brandeis Sustainability Coordinator Janna Cohen-Rosenthal ‘03 said.

The actual installation of the panels will be done by Alteris Renewables, a firm that recently installed similar panels at Yale University. Disruption during construction will be minimal, and only the parking lot at the back of the building, usually used for the athletic department vans, will be closed during construction.

Cohen-Rosenthal discussed the possibility of further solar panel installations cautiously.

“[The Gosman roof] is the best roof for solar—it’s the largest roof. That’s why a power purchase agreement [there] makes sense,” she said.

“For our smaller roofs, a power purchase agreement may not make sense, and we don’t have the resources right now to pay for something upfront.”

Once the system is operational, a website displaying the amount of energy produced by the array will become public.

The panels are expected to provide 10 percent of the total energy needed to power Gosman, though the percentage will fluctuate depending on how much energy the center consumes each month.

The solar energy system will prevent 11.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere over the next 25 years.

“You can see that it’s not going to produce as much as our energy needs,” Cohen-Rosenthal said, “but it’s a wonderful educational opportunity to think about our electricity use and our overall energy use.”

Cohen-Rosenthal also stressed the university’s commitment to its Climate Action Plan, which was presented in September and commits the university to attaining carbon neutrality by 2050. The exploration of alternative renewable energy formed a large component of the plan, though she noted that “they’re only part of the solution.”

“I want to emphasize that this is a serious project. It’s not just a demonstration project by any means,” she said.

“It’s taken a considerable effort, and it’s a big accomplishment.”