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Sustainability at Delbarton: Solar Panel Update
Jessica Fiddes

Since 2021, Delbarton campus has installed five solar panel arrays that produce energy from the sun. In all, Delbarton has installed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on the roofs of both gyms, Trinity Hall, the Retreat Center, the FAC and St. Benedict Hall as seen in the drone view below captured in October by Tyler Carifa '27. In total, in ideal circumstances  -- i.e. many sunny days -- these systems are capable of delivering 1,105,160 kWh of electricity annually.

All Delbarton solar panel systems are connected to the utility grid and metered against existing electricity usage. Each facility contributes an economic benefit in the form of electricity cost savings, which are projected to be upwards of  $900,000 over the years of the solar power purchase agreement with Solar Landscape, LLC. Jack Gibbons ‘24, student leader of the Greener Wave Environmental Club, says, “Having the solar panels on the campus along with all the outdoor environments showcases Delbarton’s commitment to Stewardship.”

The two main types of solar energy technologie are photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP). Delbarton uses PV, which employs solar panels that capture solar energy. When the sun shines onto a solar panel, energy from the sunlight is absorbed by the PV cells in the panel which then creates electrical charges that move in response to an internal electrical field in the cell, causing electricity to flow.  In contrast, CSP systems use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat, which can then be used to produce electricity or even stored for later use. This method is used primarily in large power plants.

Over the life of Delbarton's current system, 11,100 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) will be eliminated from our footprint. Carbon emissions offset is a reduction or removal of emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gasses made to compensate for emissions made elsewhere. This volume of carbon emissions reduction is equivalent to driving 27,153,555 fewer vehicular miles, or displacing CO2 emissions from the annual electric use of 1,935 homes.  Delbarton’s solar power system also provides students daily exposure to the impact of a renewable energy source. Science Department Chair and Sustainability Coordinator Brian Theroux says, “Learning about the technology and functionality of Delbarton’s solar array serves as a lesson for students, supplementing their understanding in chemistry, physics, engineering and environmental studies.”

An information screen in the Science Pavilion -- click here to access Delbarton's Solar Landscape site -- typically displays data from the solar photovoltaic systems.

Theroux says, "The solar savings from our photovoltaic systems can be measured in several ways, including cost savings and carbon emissions offset."  The cost savings of decreased power consumption result in lower utilities for the school but, of course, not enough to make us fossil fuel-independent.  “Given the scope of the school’s electricity needs," says Theroux, "Rooftop panels will never produce more electricity than the buildings use. Rather, the goal is to offset power production from non-renewable sources. These savings are calculated in pennies and nickels per kilowatt hour of electricity, which can quickly accumulate every day the sun shines.”

Gibbons, who lives in Westfield, NJ, says, “I live 45 minutes away from Delbarton, which means a lot of driving, and it is great to think about how Delbarton offsets the carbon footprint of my school commute with the solar panels.” In fact, the over 262 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions offset by Delbarton's PV arrays last year was more than enough to offset the carbon emissions of the entire student and faculty commuting to school.

This focus on stewardship and sustainability are a natural extension of Delbarton's Benedictine Catholic ethos, which is notable for simplicity, humility, stability, and hospitality and is especially well-suited to sustainable stewardship of the natural environment.  Hospitality also demands that this bucolic 187-acre campus remain welcoming for future generations, and Delbarton continues to do its part.