PITTSFIELD -- Berkshire Community College officials announced that work will soon begin on a $3.5 million project to install more than 1,800 solar panels on six campus buildings -- making it the largest roof-mounted installation of its kind at any educational institution in the state.
The solar array is expected to generate more than 400,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, or roughly 25 percent of the school's total electricity.
BCC President Paul Raverta said Monday the installation will save the college more than $2 million in utility costs over 20 years.
He said 25 percent of the project's cost will be financed from the anticipated energy savings, and the school will still enjoy a reduction in the school's overall cost of utilities. The money for the rest of the project is being provided by federal stimulus funds.
The solar installation, which is expected to be in use by the fall, is one of six projects being put out to bid as one package by the Massachusetts Department of Capital Asset Management. "It's already out to bid, so it's going to move very quickly," Raverta said.
Mark Nelson, deputy commissioner of DCAM, said the project at BCC seemed a natural since the roofs are in great shape, having been recently replaced.
"When you get new roofs, it's a good time to go solar," he said. "And these roofs are in good shape -- nice, new and flat."
Between 2005 and 2008, the state spent $2.4 million on roof replacement at BCC.
State Sen. Benjamin Downing said that recent closings of paper mills in Berkshire County was partly due to the fact that "we hadn't done enough to secure our energy future. Now we're starting to turn the tide."
He said money saved on energy costs at BCC can now be "put directly into achieving the mission of this college."
State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley praised Raverta for his collaborative instinct. "Because he's so innovative, he clearly understands the mission, and now this installation will be a model for other institutions around the state," he said.