The new, two-megawatt, eight-acre solar field on East Campus went live in January 2012. The project developer PowerPlay Solar Development, constructed the field in collaboration with Spire Solar Systems.
The project, part of an energy master plan developed by sustainability students and presented to the school’s trustees in the fall of 2011, is the largest solar installation in the state of Massachusetts and the largest operating solar facility of its kind at any private secondary school in the U.S.
Since connected with National Grid, the local utility, the solar field generates over 2,300 megawatt hours of clean electrical power its first year, or up to 40-percent of the school’s electricity needs. The privately-financed project features two different solar devices; fixed-tilt photovoltaic (PV) panels and single-axis tracking PV panels with room to add other solar demo-technologies in the future.
According to PowerPlay Solar, each year Berkshire’s solar field will remove nearly 2,650,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, 1,650 pounds of nitrogen oxide, and 4,400 pounds of sulfur dioxide from the atmosphere—or the equivalent use of 1.5 million pounds of coal annually. The project will also feature an energy investigations laboratory allowing students to analyze different solar technologies and monitor the output of the solar field per school building in terms of kilowatt hours of energy production, and pounds of carbon savings.