By Naidelly Coelho
Asst. News Editor
Framingham State is partnering with PowerOptions Energy Consortium to install solar panels on Larned Hall and construct solar canopies on Salem End Road Parking Lot.
PowerOptions is a nonprofit energy-buying consortium that delivers cost savings and predictability to nonprofits and public sector organizations, according to its website.
The first phase of the project is to install solar panels on Larned Hall. This project will install an array of 171 solar panels on the roof, said Dale Hamel, executive vice president.
FSU will enter a 20-25 year fixed-rate agreement with the company, he said.
“Solar projects work when there's subsidies provided for them,” Hamel said.
Once the installation of solar panels is complete, FSU will save an estimated $514,000 in electricity costs over the 20-25 year agreement, he said.
Megan Mayer, a nutrition professor and campus sustainability coordinator, said Select Energy will install, maintain, and operate solar panels through the contract.
She said there's a dual purpose of installing solar panels. It will provide environmental benefits and help the University save energy costs.
The installation of solar panels on Larned Hall will begin over spring break and it will continue throughout the summer, Mayer said.
“It's going to provide us with a great opportunity to generate renewable energy for our own campus as well as be able to reduce the amount of fossil fuels that we're using to power our campus,” she said.
Initially, FSU had three different projects building solar panels in different locations: O’Connor Hall, Larned Hall, and Salem End Road.
The idea of building on O’Connor was discarded because the roof cannot support this type of structure, Hamel said.
Mayer said, “One of the goals in that plan is to generate more of our energy that we use on campus from renewable sources.”
Hamel said the city of Framingham has a “huge” role in how these projects proceed.
Mayer said FSU has a Climate Action Plan that has sustainability goals for the University to achieve in the coming years.
FSU was named among the most environmentally responsible colleges in the country by The Princeton Review.
Hamel said the Board of Trustees had many discussions about energy savings and if the project was worth it. They decided that even if the University doesn’t save much money, they would still go forward with the project because the University has the Green Commitment.
FSU completed installing solar panels on the Athletic Center and McCarthy Center a few years ago.
In combination, the solar panels on these two locations increased FSU’s renewable energy percentage to 19.25%, according to the Climate Action Plan.
A second project that is still not finalized is the installment of solar canopies on Salem End Road parking lot.
“One of the bigger issues is with supply chain and the lead times - we're talking three months at least in terms of the steel, so we have to wrap up the deal, before we can even proceed and we don't want to go into the fall because that's a major lag for us,” Hamel said.
Glenn Cochran, associate dean of students and student life, said Residence Life is “very excited” to be part of the project.
Installing solar panels where they are visible to students allows them to see FSU is making the right sustainability choices, he said.
Mayer said in the McCarthy Center, students can see panels from one of the stairwells in the building, but otherwise, because these panels are on the roofs of buildings, students don't go up there and it’s “hard” for students, faculty, and staff to see them.
She said she plans to host events during the fall semester to communicate with students about these sustainability efforts FSU is making.
“I think this solar canopy that would be over the parking lot, would be an obvious reminder every time students are parking there that we're capturing energy from the sun and using that to power part of our campus. I really liked the idea of the canopy for that reason,” Mayer said.
Cochran said Residence Life fully supports sustainability on campus because the department encourages students to make good decisions.
“Residence Life has tried to be supportive of sustainability efforts,” he said. “Sustainability is a social justice issue, too.”
He said in the Fall 2022 Semester, he worked with Mayer, and Stephanie Crane, associate director of Residence Life, on creating materials on sustainability for residence students.
“We were the first campus, I think, in the state university system, to kind of zone in on requirements for refrigerators and microfridges in the residence halls to require them to be Energy Star rated - again, for sustainability,” he said.
He said students will be in situations either at work or their homes in the future where they'll be making decisions on renewable energy and how they can be involved in sustainability efforts.
Framingham State hopes to be a positive influence on students regarding sustainability matters and efforts to be a green campus, Cochran said.