New England's Largest Solar Parking Canopy

olar parking canopy at Bristol Community College
Bristol Community College’s solar parking canopy will generate more than 34 million kilowatt hours of energy each year.
Bristol Community College

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and leaders from Bristol Community College (BCC) and its partners joined in unveiling New England’s largest solar parking canopy to date, a 3.2 megawatt solar array covering 800 parking spaces on five acres of the College’s Fall River Campus.

Built in partnership with the nonprofit energy-buying consortium PowerOptions and its solar partner SunEdison, the solar array will generate more than 34 million kilowatt hours of energy each year, enough to cover half of the campus’ electricity needs and generate a 20-year savings of more than $1.75 million. The solar parking canopy avoids the emission of more than 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide each year, which is the same as removing approximately 5,000 cars from the road.

Governor Baker commented, “Clean energy technology in Massachusetts is thriving, spurred by the Commonwealth’s innovative spirit, vibrant technology industry, strong public-private partnerships, and world class academic institutions. Initiatives like the solar canopy at Bristol Community College leverage opportunities at state facilities, and position the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while protecting the environment and moving towards our administration’s solar goal of generating 1,600 megawatts at homes, businesses, municipalities, and state agencies by 2020.”

The solar canopy will supply power for the entire Fall River Campus, and is slated to be a major part of the Zero Net Energy plans for the John J. Sbrega Health and Science Building which is currently under construction. The building will house health sciences programs and life sciences laboratory learning spaces, which are notoriously huge energy consumers. The solar canopy, coupled with design choices for passive solar in the building itself and installation of geothermal wells, will help the college achieve this Zero Net Energy goal for the building.

John J. Sbrega, Ph.D., President of Bristol Community College, noted, “Bristol Community College is committed to sustainable energy and lessening our impact on the planet. This public-private collaboration is a model for energy generation and usage, and Bristol Community College is taking a leading role in finding solutions to address the enormous power needs of modern higher education.”

The joint projects have already garnered national attention for the innovative approach to renewable energy, including the Leading by Example award from the Commonwealth, Bellwether Finalist Award; and the Innovation award from the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). It has also been the subject of articles in many trade publications.

Governor Baker hailed the solar parking canopy as an exemplary model of how renewable energy generation can be incorporated at nonprofit organizations and public institutions like the college. The Governor added that this is a great example of the how the public, private, and nonprofit sectors can band together to solve complex problems and save money.

The canopy is the latest realization of the PowerOptions Solar Program, unveiled in 2012, which helps nonprofits, government institutions, and municipalities enjoy the clean, cost-effective, and sustainable energy benefits of solar power.

“Our mission is to help state agencies and nonprofits navigate the complicated and costly energy market and reinvest any savings of time and money back into their missions, so this canopy is a measurable win-win for Bristol Community College, its students, and the entire Commonwealth,” said PowerOptions President and CEO Cynthia Arcate. “We’re delighted to be showing off the biggest canopy in the region but the best benefit is in allowing the college to focus on and reinvest in its core mission.”

“A solar parking canopy system of this size and scale is the perfect fit for Bristol Community College’s renewable energy needs,” said Steve Raeder, SunEdison managing director of commercial and industrial for the Eastern U.S. “Colleges, municipalities, and other facilities with large parking areas can also benefit from the innovative SunEdison solar parking canopy system, which provides shade and shelter in addition to generating cost effective, clean solar energy. With solar projects like this, made possible by the governor’s forethought and effective renewable energy policies, the Commonwealth is well on its way to reaching its renewable energy goals.”

The college has signed a power purchase agreement with SunEdison to buy the power from the solar canopy for a guaranteed price over the next 20 years. Operation and maintenance of the solar canopy system will be performed by SunEdison Services, which provides global 24/7 asset management, monitoring, and reporting services.