Princeton to Install Powerful Solar Collector Field

Princeton University plans to install a 5.3-megawatt solar collector field on 27 acres in West Windsor Township, N.J. The system, comprising 16,500 photovoltaic panels, is expected to be one of the largest single installations at a U.S. college or university.

Construction could begin as early as this summer and be completed by summer 2012. The collector field should generate 8 million kilowatt-hours per year -- enough to power the equivalent of 700 homes or enough to meet 5.5 percent of the total annual campus electrical needs.

This renewable energy source will be funded and owned by Superior, Colo.-based Key Equipment Finance, which will lease it to Princeton. The project eventually will reduce the University's carbon footprint by decreasing its dependence on fossil fuels and should trim approximately 8 percent per year from its electric costs.

"We are excited at the prospect of realizing the environmental and economic benefits of solar, while also taking a leadership role in advancing renewable energy in a way that could work for many other educational institutions," Michael McKay, Princeton's vice president for facilities, told the Princetonian. "In addition to providing a portion of the electricity needs of the main campus, we hope our approach will serve as a national model. We also envision that this system will be used as a teaching tool for Princeton students in various disciplines."