University installs solar panels on library roof
Although an almost imperceptible change to the University’s appearance, Goldfarb Library’s new solar panels — installed over winter break — have doubled the amount of solar power generated on campus.
The University generates 270,000 kilowatt-hours per year through solar panels on Gosman Sports and Convocation Center, and the new panels will generate an additional 270,000 kWh per year, according to a Jan. 16 library blog post.
The panels are another step toward the University’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality. According to the Oct. 2016 Brandeis University Climate Action Plan, in 2008, the University became a charter signatory to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.
This plan outlines five areas directly related to reducing the institution’s carbon footprint: community effort, education, energy, facilities maintenance and technological innovations.
When discussing solar arrays, the report mentioned that “based on the small amount of usable rooftop and parking lot space available relative to campus electrical usage, and as the average solar installation is only approximately 15 percent efficient, the resulting new solar panels would only provide approximately 1-2 percent of our campus electricity needs.”
Despite the lack of immediate or significant change, the report noted that “adding solar to campus is still an opportunity to show leadership, improve resilience, add renewable energy to the electric grid, and help reduce carbon emissions to the atmosphere.”
The Goldfarb solar panels are a continuation of recent solar additions to campus. An article published in March 2016 by the Justice reported that solar panels were installed on top of Gosman in 2010, and 2013 saw a solar thermal system installed near the Charles River Apartments.
Solar thermal technology harnesses the sun’s energy to either generate heat or power cooling systems. These solar thermal technologies differ from solar photovoltaic systems, which generate electricity rather than heat. For businesses that use large quantities of hot fluids, solar thermal systems are an advantage, as they use solar energy — rather than fuel — for heating.
The solar panels on Goldfarb Library are the newest initiative. The Jan. 16 library blog post explained that the library was chosen due to its large, brand new roof.
The library is the ninth most energy consuming building on campus, behind high-traffic areas like the Shapiro Campus Center, Usdan Student Center and two buildings in the Science Complex, according to the University’s data regarding its carbon footprint. The new Goldfarb panels will generate power equivalent to approximately 25 percent of the library’s electricity usage, as per the library blog post.
In an email interview with the Justice, Mary Fischer, the University’s Sustainability manager, explained that “Brandeis purchases the electricity generated by the solar panels for a known cost that is lower than our existing electricity cost, and is set for the 20-year life of the purchasing contract.”
Another illustration of Brandeis’ commitment to sustainability is University President Ron Liebowitz’s June 2017 statement in support of the Paris Agreement. At the time, Liebowitz declared that “Brandeis is proud to stand with other universities and innovative businesses, mayors and governors from across the U.S. who are all committed to working within our institutions and together to advance sustainability while combating climate change.”
Although the installation is a change invisible to those walking around campus, the panels play a role in achieving Brandeis’ long-term sustainability goals.
A previous version of this article conflated the library solar panel installation with a separate University partnership with Borrego Solar Systems. The Borrego solar project is not connected to the library's new solar panels, and the four solar partner companies mentioned were not involved in the Goldfarb project.