Williams Partners with Four Leading Liberal Arts Colleges to Create New Solar Energy Facility

Media contact: Greg Shook, director of media relations; tele: 413-597-3401; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., April 19, 2018— Five of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges have formed a pioneering collaborative that will allow them to offset 46,000 megawatt hours per year of their collective electrical needs with electricity created at a new solar power facility to be built in Farmington, Maine. The partnership represents the first collaborative purchase of New England-generated solar electricity by higher-education institutions.

Williams, Amherst, Bowdoin, Hampshire, and Smith colleges are partnering with a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, a leading clean energy company, which will construct a utility-scale solar power facility that annually will create enough electricity to power about 5,000 New England homes.

Each of the colleges will purchase zero-carbon electricity from the Maine site to reduce carbon emissions from campus electricity use. The facility is expected to open in 2019.

The New England College Renewable Partnership is innovative and impactful in several ways:

  • It facilitates the development of additional solar electricity generation in New England.
  • It will have a significant sustainability impact, moving each of the five campuses closer to their climate-action goals.
  • It helps each school manage costs by “locking in” the price of electricity for the next 20 years.
  • And, most importantly, it provides market access that would not have been available to individual institutions, offering a scalable model that other colleges and universities can follow.

Competitive Energy Services acted as adviser to the colleges.

The Impact at Williams

The NEC Renewable Partnership enables Williams College to further its commitment to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions as well as advance toward meeting its two most recent sustainability goals. Set in September 2015 by the college’s Board of Trustees, these goals are to reduce emissions to 35 percent below 1990 levels and purchase sufficient carbon offsets to achieve carbon neutrality—both by the end of 2020. The solar commitment is the latest in a series of steps toward these goals, including investing in new projects to lower energy use in existing campus buildings, as well as investing in sustainable design, building practices, and systems for all new and ongoing construction projects, among numerous other initiatives aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

“The Farmington solar complex makes it possible for Williams to procure renewable energy and the related environmental attributes at competitive rates, both of which would not be attainable without this collaborative partnership,” said Matt Sheehy, associate vice president for finance. “Williams has an obligation to reduce its carbon footprint in substantive ways, both on campus and beyond, and we are invigorated by this partnership with our friends in higher learning to invest in achieving net carbon neutrality,” said Interim President Tiku Majumder.

The NEC Renewable Partnership creates opportunities for Williams to continue to invest in other sustainability projects and opportunities as they arise while moving the college toward its 2020 emissions goals. “We knew from the start that we would need close to 100 percent renewable electricity to meet Williams’ most recent sustainability goals,” said Amy Johns, director of the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives. “And we are thrilled both with this particular project and with the chance to work closely with our peer institutions.”

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Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.

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