The Potential for Photovoltaics at Williams

This year, several students supported by a grant from the Luce Foundation, worked on summer projects at Williams. We would like to share their work with you, so we will be posting summaries of their reports here and links to the full versions. In most cases, the students worked on projects with practical application at Williams or in our local community. These students will be talking about their projects at an upcoming Log Lunch, on Friday, October 5. The first of such projects considers the potential for employing solar energy technologies at Williams, and was authored by Ruth Aronoff ’09.

Opportunities for Photovoltaic Installations at Williams College by Ruth Aronoff ’09

Williams College is at a unique crossroads. The college is undertaking new building projects and renovations to enhance the facilities available to its students, faculty, and staff; it has also made a firm commitment to environmental sustainability by adopting greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. These separate endeavors can be achieved congruently in the form of sustainable buildings, and a central aspect of green building is renewable energy.

This report examines the feasibility of installing photovoltaic arrays on buildings at Williams College. It is reasonable to expect that a PV installation on campus would result in an 18 year payback period. The costs of installation can be offset by grants available from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. Williams College currently has a small 7.2 kW installation on the roof of Morley Science Center. Several local institutions and other colleges and universities have constructed larger arrays. These projects locally include; Mass MOCA – 50 kW, Williamstown Elementary School – 24 kW, North Adams Public Library – 9.6 kW, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts – 9 kW, Yale University – 40 kW and Georgetown University – 337 kW.

Current and up-coming building projects offer many opportunities for the college to adopt PV technology, including Weston Field Athletic Complex, Stetson/Sawyer renovation and expansion, off-site library shelving facility, Kellogg House, Williams College Children’s Center and other existing buildings.

Given the college’s commitment to sustainability, it is imperative for the college to consider renewable energy technologies. Solar energy not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions, but it also provides a valuable educational opportunity for the campus community.