Powerful Changes at Groton's New Solar Farm

Groton's new solar farm has received its long-awaited lithium-ion batteries, which will greatly increase the site’s efficiency by allowing the system to store energy and use it when the need is highest. 

 The John B. Goodenough ’40 Solar Battery Farm, named for the alumnus and recent Nobel Prize winner who pioneered the science behind the lithium-ion battery, began delivering solar-generated electricity to the campus in August, thanks to its array of solar panels. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the batteries—a key element in the solar farm—were delayed until mid-October. 

The batteries were installed on October 14. “Programming, metering, and testing are underway,” said Building and Grounds Director Tim Dumont, “and the battery likely will be in full use before the month’s end." 

The new solar array and the energy storage system will work together to significantly reduce Groton School’s reliance on fossil fuels. The solar panels directly feed the campus energy grid, lowering the need for power from the Groton Electric Light Department. The power storage system—the batteries—will be charged during off-peak hours and can be discharged when demand for electricity peaks, not just at the school but throughout New England. For example, when air conditioners are running at full force during a summer heat wave, the system can discharge all of its energy over a short period of time, said Mr. Dumont, reducing or eliminating excessive demand that can strain the region's grid.

The solar panels are expected to generate more than 150,000 kwh (kilowatt hours) per year, saving the equivalent of about 113 metric tons of carbon dioxide. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, these 113 metric tons offset the annual carbon dioxide emissions from 124,052 pounds of coal or from 261 barrels of oil. The carbon offset, according to Mr. Dumont, is equivalent to that saved by 1,862 seedlings grown for ten years or by 147 acres of U.S. forests. The solar energy generated on campus could power about nineteen average homes for a year or charge more than 14 million smartphones. The farm was built with the possibility of expansion in mind.

The Goodenough Solar Battery Farm joins a new “net-zero” faculty residence that is powered by its own separate solar grid as examples of Groton's School's ongoing efforts to increase sustainability.