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Cornell Breaks Ground on 18MW Community Solar Farm

University officials, local government representatives and solar power executives ceremonially broke ground March 1 for the new 18-megawatt Cascadilla Community Solar Farm at Cornell. It is the university's sixth large-scale solar project.

Construction is underway at the Cascadilla Community Solar Farm. Photo by Jason Koski/Cornell Brand Communications."This represents a concrete and visible step forward in Cornell's commitment toward sustainability and carbon neutrality," Rick Burgess, vice president for facilities and campus services, said at the ceremony.

According to Burgess, Cornell has already reduced its carbon footprint 36 percent since 2008 and has developed relationships with community partners and developers to promote renewable energy and create regional low-carbon strategies. This project advances those efforts.

"In this project, we double the offsets [energy credits, from 10 to 20 percent] with renewable energy by bringing the solar farm online, and we did it in a way that opens [available energy] to the community," Burgess said. "It's a real step forward in terms of extending the art of the possible.

The land is a 125-acre parcel near Game Farm Road, designated by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as non-producing farmland. The overall project of about 79,000 solar panels has been under construction since late 2018 by developer Solar Farms New York ; it will add over 30 gigawatt hours onto the grid to serve about 3,000 average residential homes.

Previous Cornell solar farm projects include:
    • Snyder Road, Lansing, NY, 1.76MW (2014)
    • Rooftop solar on the Ithaca campus, 0.09MW (2015)
    • Geneva, NY, 2MW (2015)
    • Harford, NY, 2MW (2016)
    • Musgrave West and Musgrave East, Aurora, NY, 4MW (2016).

Under New York's new community solar program, the farms sell their electricity to NYSEG; in turn, customers pay Solar Farms New York for electricity.

Residential electricity customers can join this solar farm simply by signing up, without any membership fee - and the customers may have their electric costs reduced by at least 5 percent.

- Blaine Friedlander, Cornell Chronicle, 3/6/19