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Hocking College searches for financial plan to sustain solar project

Financial plans to implement the eighth-largest campus solar panel system in the nation are in the works between Hocking College officials and Third Sun Solar Power.

The project would include the installation of solar panels on top of carports in a campus parking lot, said Hocking College Director of Sustainability Joe Wakeman. If completed, the system would satisfy nearly 20 percent of the university’s energy needs.

“The original design was to be just shy of a two mega-watt system,” Wakeman said. “We’re trying to shoot big.”

A two mega-watt system, which would be just under nine times the size of the Athens Community Center’s system, is valued at $8.5 million, Wakeman added.

Currently, the main objective is to find a company to join with Hocking College in a Power Purchasing Agreement, he added.

Third Sun Solar Power, an Ohio “clean” energy provider, would design and construct the system, said the company’s communications director, Gerald Kelly.

The Power Purchasing Agreement firm would own and finance the system. The university would in turn buy energy for the system at the firm’s set price, he added.

“Solar engineering is 30 percent technical and 70 percent financial,” Kelly said.

“The financial engineering is a little more complicated because it takes a little bit longer for people to look at all the options they have and make decisions.

They’ve done quite a bit of homework and we have, too.”

The discussion to install the panels began last fall, and was motivated by the university’s contract with American College and University President’s Climate Commitment, and the construction of the Hocking College Energy Institute in 2009, Wakeman said.

“We really need to take the torch and make this happen,” Wakeman said.

“People expect this to happen, and we do as well.”

Athens City Councilman Elahu Gosney, D-at-large, believes the project could lead to more sustainable practices in surrounding regions.

“I hope that it inspires larger projects within Athens,” Gosney said. “The community has been moving towards this for many years and it’s good to see all these large institutions moving in the same direction at the same time.”

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