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Solar power coming soon to Clarkson

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POTSDAM - Clarkson University may receive as much as 10 percent of its power through solar energy by this fall.

Construction on a 2 megawatt solar energy array will begin soon at Clarkson’s property near the village airport, pending approval from the town planning board.

The array will be designed, built and operated by Community Energy, Radnor, Pa., a company with solar energy systems across the country.

Community Energy will design, build and operate the system, but Clarkson University will be their sole customer.

The college will pay about as much for solar energy as it does for electricity from National Grid, Michael P. Griffin, college spokesman, said.

“We’re doing this to be green and because of our commitment to sustainability and to showcase the state-of-the-art technology they will be using,” Mr. Griffin said.

Clarkson students will be able to study the array as a real-world example of solar energy generation, and the university plans to gather data from the project and share its findings with others.

The university has a 25-year contract with Community Energy.

The 2 megawatts generated by the solar panels are enough to handle about 10 percent of the college’s electricity needs, or enough to power 350 homes.

The town Planning Board is expected to make a decision on whether to allow the construction of the solar array at its April 1 meeting. The proposal will be reviewed this week by the St. Lawrence County Planning Board.

If the construction is approved, work will begin this summer and the panels will be generating power by this fall.

The project received funding through NY-Sun, a $54 million statewide initiative supporting large solar energy projects.

This will be the largest solar energy array in the north country, according to Community Energy Vice President Thomas Tuffey.

“We think solar is a form of energy that has a good future, although it’s not going to replace everything,” he said.

Since solar power does not require fuel, it provides a hedge against rising energy costs, he said. “Solar has a place on the energy grid, and I think more and more people are starting to see that.”

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