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CICV program will help Randolph pursue solar power

Randolph College is joining forces with the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia (CICV) to explore opportunities for solar power on college campuses.

In the new partnership, Randolph and 14 other private colleges in the state will work with CICV to develop comprehensive plans for implementing solar power on their campuses. The partnership has been awarded more than $807,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, which seeks to make solar energy costs more competitive with other forms of energy.

Although the costs of solar panels and other related materials have come down in recent years, the “soft costs” of regulations, contracts, and technical issues have increased, said Ludovic Lemaitre ’11, Randolph’s sustainability director. The new program with CICV will make it easier for Randolph to access affordable solar power options in the future, he said.

Lemaitre said solar energy would provide a more environmentally friendly power source, and it also would be available even if utility companies serving the College had service disruptions. “Additionally, the presence of photovoltaic panels on campus would offer an educational opportunity for students to see first-hand how the world’s fastest growing energy source is setup and how it functions on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

The three-year program will help the colleges navigate the complex legal, regulatory, and technical challenges associated with installing solar systems, leverage group purchasing power to achieve price reductions for hardware and installation services, and create a learning network accessible by other organizations considering solar power. Consulting services will be provided to CICV by Optony, Inc., a global consulting firm focused on solar energy.

The project’s ultimate goal is to create and implement a replicable plan for participating institutions to deploy solar electricity within five years. This project has the potential to substantially increase the total amount of solar power now produced within the Commonwealth of Virginia. Program objectives also aim to break down procedural, administrative, financial and legal barriers in the participating institutions’ localities to aid in the implementation of solar power in those communities.

Faculty and students at each collaborating institution will work on the project together to develop their solar energy plans. “Involving students in the process from start to finish will provide educational opportunities and exposure to innovative and current topics – knowledge we hope will inspire them to continue sustainability efforts long after their college years,” said Anita Girelli, CICV director of business operations.

“CICV member colleges are interested in sustainability and reducing their carbon footprints,” said CICV President Robert Lambeth. “…While solar energy is not their primary mission, our member colleges are proud to be good stewards of the earth and positive role models for their students and communities.”

The collaboration between the colleges is similar to a program last year that enabled Randolph, along with four other private colleges, to purchase energy generated by burning waste methane at landfills.



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