Solar panel project opening ceremony on Thursday

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Eli Strauser / The Bucknellian

Michael Taromina , Contributing Writer

Editor’s note: This article was published in print on Oct. 07, the day after the event. 

Bucknell University is known for many things—stellar academics, superb facilities and superior athletics, but one aspect of the college that is increasing in size and scope is the campus’ focus on green and renewable energy. 

On Oct. 6 at 2 p.m, Bucknell University will host a public dedication of the 1.76 peak megawatt solar array on the project site between Bucknell Golf Club and Art Barn Complex off of Smoketown Road, along with their partner Encore Renewable Energy of Burlington, Vt. 

The event will celebrate the operation of the array, which will supply up to seven percent of the University’s electricity and will move Bucknell a step closer to achieving climate neutrality goals, such as being carbon neutral by 2030. 

“We expect the project to be complete and producing power by the end of October,” said James Knight, Energy and Utilities Specialist. “It is 99% complete, but we are waiting for one piece of electrical equipment to be delivered due to supply chain issues. It took several years of design, permitting, and construction to get to this point.”

Dedication speakers will include Bucknell President John Bravman; Chad Farrell ’92, founder and CEO of Encore Renewable Energy; Bucknell student Colton Jiorle ’25, Bucknell project manager and an East Buffalo Township supervisor; and a representative from Greenbacker Capital Management, which has provided funding for the project. They will also participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“The project will help marginally reduce the University’s carbon footprint and supply power at a lower cost than purchasing from the grid,” according to Knight.

Encore Renewable Energy is a community-scale renewable energy project developer. Founded in 2007 as Encore Redevelopment, their team specializes in the design and construction of solar and energy storage projects on open land. 

In addition to achieving Bucknell sustainability goals, the project will enhance opportunities for renewable-energy focused teaching and research across multiple disciplines. It will additionally generate property tax revenues to East Buffalo Township, provide Bucknell with price certainty on energy rates for the next several decades and strengthen the region’s commitment to the production and use of renewable energy.

“Completing this solar array has been a long process, requiring the efforts of numerous people,” Knight said. “The clean, renewable energy it contributes to the grid will benefit both the University and the local community. It also provides a great opportunity for student education and research in this rapidly expanding field.”

The location for the array provides prime sun exposure and is not in close proximity to residential properties. The project consists of south-facing panels tilted at 25 to 30 degrees, with a maximum height of nine feet. The seven acre array of panels are surrounded with an agricultural fence to ensure safety. The site has also been replanted with pollinator friendly vegetation between the panels to attract bees, butterflies and other species critical to future food security.

According to Knight, several classes have already toured the site to learn more about renewable energy development. He expects there will be many opportunities for teaching and research for our students, but nonetheless, it is already making an impact on the undergraduates just through its concoction.

“As a Bucknell University graduate, I am proud to see my alma mater advancing this important project,” said Farrell. “This project is an example of how Bucknell is leading the way among academic institutions in both decarbonization as well as providing avenues for hands-on learning for students poised to enter the clean energy workforce.”

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