Solar Goes to College

Forty solar energy installations will spring up on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus – as well as on the homes of participating MIT faculty and staff – thanks to a grant from the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust (RET).

Cambridge, Massachusetts – November 7, 2002 [] Grants totaling US$2.6 million announced in October are part of the RET’s US$10 million Solar-to-Market Initiative, among the largest public investments in the solar photovoltaic industry in New England. The project’s goal is to reduce costs of solar systems by increasing the efficiency of electricity distribution and providing valuable feedback to designers and manufacturers. The RET’s money came from a portion of Massachusetts electric bills collected over the last several years. The MIT Community Solar Power Initiative received US$455,700 for 40 solar installations on campus as well as on schools, homes and businesses in Cambridge, Watertown, Arlington, Lexington and Waltham. The initiative reflects Institute support for Renewable Energy research and uses MIT’s own buildings and personnel to test the feasibility, effectiveness and consumer acceptance of photovoltaic power generation. Edward Kern, a research engineer in the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment (LFEE), and Laxmi Rao, a senior project manager in the Department of Facilities’ Utilities Group, will direct the project. Peter Cooper, director of utilities, will arrange for providing additional MIT expertise, personnel and access to Institute facilities. Private-sector partners in the initiative include Evergreen Solar, the state’s fastest-growing photovoltaic manufacturer and the Conservation Services Group, which develops markets nationally for environmentally conscious electric power. MIT will finance solar installations on campus buildings. Installations on homes of faculty and staff members will be subsidized by the grant in the same proportion as campus installations. Evergreen Solar will provide complete system packages to MIT for all installations and the Institute will make these available to individual participants at significantly reduced cost. The Conservation Services Group will handle transactions for MIT among other project participants, including MIT faculty and staff. Participants who wish to sell Renewable Energy credits generated by their systems, called “green tags,” also can do this through the Conservation Services Group. The grant requires that MIT’s solar installations be clustered in an area that doesn’t overlap with that of other grant awardees. MIT was assigned the Route 2 corridor from Cambridge to Lexington, as a concentration of MIT’s faculty and staff live along this corridor.
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