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SUNY Cortland flips the switch on 3,600 solar panels

SUNY Cortland has flipped the switch on a solar panel field that will supply six percent of the college’s electricity needs.

The 3,600 solar panels are tucked off to the side of the college’s athletic fields. It was a two-year project from start to finish and cost $3 million. SUNY Cortland was the first public college in the state to install such a project.

The panels produce 1.5 million kilowatt hours of power. The college has set a goal of getting 10 percent of its power from solar by 2050.

The panels are owned and operated by a California solar company, SolarCity, that’s leasing the land and supplying the power back to the college.

"Technically speaking, this is a utility-grade system," said SUNY Cortland's interim campus energy manager, Matthew Brubaker. "So a residential system pales in comparison to what we have here."

Brubaker says the solar field is a visual sign of the campus’s commitment to sustainability.

"So hopefully this helps make electricity more visible, and then therefore make people more aware of when they have lights on, simple things that often go overlooked in the habits that we have," he said.

Brubaker says there isn’t much room left on the campus for more panels. And being close to an airport, large wind turbines aren’t a possibility at the site.

So he says the college will look to smaller scale projects to continue reducing energy use. Brubaker says smaller wind turbines could be possible.

WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail