Bard College planning a solar farm

Bard College, no stranger to using clean energy and lowering carbon footprints in many forms, has contracted for an array of solar panels to be installed on campus to help offset their electrical consumption.

Christopher Alsante, director of business development for Solartech Renewables, appeared before the Red Hook Planning Board on Jan. 7 to present Bard’s proposal to erect 1,200 solar panels on campus.

The array itself has been split into three separate groups to avoid nearby areas of archeological significance, where artifacts have been found. According to the proposal, the panels will be ground-mounted and will not move or rotate. Each one is approximately 24 square feet and they will be 1,700 feet from the Hudson River and screened from the river by existing trees.

Solartech Renewables will be constructing and operating the array for the first seven years and selling the power to Bard College as part of the deal.

“We’re selling power,” Alsante said. “And so you try to sell power at a cost at the meter that’s beneficial to the college. The least amount of moving parts you have, the easier the maintenance, the less the cost.”

These will be the first solar panels to generate electricity on campus, according to Bard’s Sustainability Manager Laurie Husted.

“The only solar power we have [right now] is solar hot water,” said Husted. “Lots of geothermal — that’s what we’re most proud of — and we feel like [geothermal] is the most groundbreaking part of Bard renewables.”

Compared to the amount of power the campus consumes, the electricity generated will be “a drop in the bucket,” she added, but will hopefully demonstrate whether it is feasible to build more in the future.

“We should get about 300,000 kWh per year,” said Husted, which would generate enough power for 12 typical residential homes.

Bard College maintains its own long-term master plan and there were some questions about whether that would need to be updated. Michele Greig, from Greenplan, the town’s planning consultant, also reminded the board that any tree removal would need to be timed to limit the impact on a nearby Indiana Bat population. The exact number and location of any trees to be removed has not yet been determined.

The project plans will be updated following the board’s comments and will be presented again to the planners at a future meeting. The college hopes that construction will begin early this spring.

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