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​Rhode Island College Sustainability Coordinator James Murphy on the Donovan Dining Center roof.

A 110 kW solar panel array atop the Donovan Dining Center and Student Union is one of Rhode Island College’s latest investments in renewable energy production. 

Ameresco Inc., a leading energy efficient and renewable energy company, installed the solar panel array, using funding from the college, Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources (OER) and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, with each contributing $100,000.

James Murphy, RIC’s sustainability coordinator, said the solar panel array, which is tied in with the college’s electric service, will produce approximately $25,000 in electricity annually. 

“That’s electricity for the college that we won’t have to purchase from National Grid,” Murphy said. “Over a four-year period, we will see a return on our investment. During the lifetime of the solar array, which we anticipate is 30 to 35 years, the net gain for the college will be at least $700,000, based on today’s electricity prices.”

The solar panel array is also reducing the college’s carbon footprint by 1,358 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. That is the equivalent of erasing carbon emissions from 163 homes or taking 288 cars off the road each year.

“Our investment in saving energy and preserving the environment at Rhode Island College through generating clean, renewable energy is a priority,” said RIC President Frank D. Sánchez. 

The college previously partnered with Ameresco, Inc. to provide energy cost savings through energy efficient and infrastructure upgrades to 33 campus buildings. Those improvements included building weatherization, transformer replacements, repair of heat recovery units and water conservation measures.
RIC routinely collaborates with OER to reduce energy costs, mitigate price volatility and improve environmental quality. In June the college received OER’s Lead by Example Award, which promotes the adoption of clean energy measures across public sector facilities throughout Rhode Island.

“We’re definitely leading by example,” Murphy said. “This solar panel array initiative shows our students that we’re investing in sustainable energy, looking at our carbon footprint and trying to do better.”