Williams College Solar Partnership

This new solar facility in Farmington, Maine, is providing renewable energy to a partnership of five colleges in New England, including Williams College.

WILLIAMSTOWN — Williams College just took an important step forward in reducing its carbon footprint.

A collaborative energy project has started delivering electricity to Williams and four other New England colleges, and to tens of thousands of students, staff and faculty, as a new solar facility has gone online in Farmington, Maine.

Williams’ share of solar power from the Farmington NEC Renewable Partnership amounts to approximately 90 percent of the college’s annual purchased electricity needs. The remainder already is sustainably sourced through the purchase of Renewable Energy Tax Credits.

“The Farmington project is not only an essential part of Williams’ commitment to shifting toward renewable energy,” said Williams Provost and professor of economics Dukes Love. “It also demonstrates the power of partnerships in finding collective solutions to one of the major challenges of our times. These are exactly the kinds of approaches that we need at a global scale in order to address climate change.”

Over the past three years, the colleges have contracted with a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, a leading clean energy company, to build a 76.5-megawatt solar power plant that will create enough electricity to power about 17,000 New England homes every year.

The New England College Renewable Partnership, launched in 2018, is a first-of-its-kind collaboration among five leading New England liberal arts schools, including Amherst, Bowdoin, Hampshire, Smith and Williams.

“Farmington is a model for cross-institutional collaboration around the urgent problem of climate change,” said Williams College President Maud S. Mandel. “We are more powerful when we work together, and Williams is proud to participate with other leading educational institutions to reach our collective sustainability goals.”

Solar power from the NEC Renewable Partnership helps Williams College reduce its greenhouse gas emissions as well as close in on many of its sustainability goals, including an 80 percent cut in emissions by 2035, compared with 1990-91. Also, the college is trying to source 100 percent of its purchased electricity from renewables and achieve maintaining carbon neutrality.

“The NEC Renewable Partnership parallels our development of a deep decarbonization plan for the campus,” said Tanja Srebotnjak, director of the college’s Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives. “It’s a terrific complement to our efforts to achieve an approximately 80 percent reduction by 2035 and to address our scope 3 emissions, notably college-sponsored air travel. By shifting to renewables and building lasting partnerships, the project shows a brighter and more sustainable future for campuses like ours.”

Each of the colleges is purchasing zero-carbon electricity from the Farmington facility to reduce carbon emissions from campus electricity use.

The partnership helps each school manage costs by “locking in” the price of electricity for the next 20 years, and energy generated by the facility will have a significant impact on sustainability, moving each of the five campuses closer to its climate action goals.

The Farmington project created about 500 temporary construction jobs, generated capital expenditures of about $150 million and will generate tax revenue of nearly $17 million over its 30-year life span.