Solar panels atop Bowdoin College's Sidney J. Watson Arena and Farley Field House complex. Credit: Courtesy of Bowdoin College

BRUNSWICK, Maine — Bowdoin College announced this week that the school has achieved carbon neutrality — a net zero carbon footprint — two years earlier than expected, and will join four other colleges to build a 75-megawatt solar project in Farmington.

Bowdoin reduced its carbon emissions by 29 percent, from 16,326 metric tons in 2008 to 11,620 metric tons in 2017, according to a news release from the college.

The reduction culminates from the results several projects, including a cogeneration turbine that produces energy as a byproduct of generating heat and converting buildings from oil to natural gas.

Other efforts include insulating 5,100 feet of underground steam tunnels, diverting more than 50 percent of the college’s waste from landfills and weatherizing buildings.

To offset the remaining emissions, the college will invest in carbon offsets and renewable energy credits associated with wind farms, according to the release.

Bowdoin also will work with Amherst, Hampshire, Smith and Williams colleges to help fund construction of a 75-megawatt solar project in Farmington. The nearly $100 million project, expected to begin operation in late 2019, will be the largest solar array in Maine. It is expected to offset nearly half of Bowdoin’s annual electricity consumption and reduce its own-source greenhouse gas emissions by 11 percent, according to the college.

The solar energy project will be the second for Bowdoin, which in 2014 developed, with Solar City, what was then the state’s largest solar array near and at the Brunswick campus.

“While we continue to aggressively pursue energy efficiency projects on our campus, it is exciting to play a role in the expansion of solar energy and green jobs in Maine,” Matthew Orlando, Bowdoin’s senior vice president for finance and administration and treasurer, said in the release. “Working with our peer schools demonstrates the need for collaborative partnerships to address climate change.”

Next year, after launching a campus-wide initiative to gather input from students, staff, and faculty, Bowdoin will present an updated Climate Action Plan, with specific goals to meet by 2030.

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