Construction begins on solar farm at Elon's Loy Farm

An array of solar panels on university property will generate nearly 3 megawatts of electricity.

Work is underway at the Loy Farm area of the Elon University campus for a solar electricity generating facility. The 15-acre solar farm is located along South Oak Avenue just east of Magnolia Cemetery. Electricity generation should begin in about two months.

The solar farm is being developed by Suntuity, a New Jersey-based company that focuses on large-scale solar power generation projects around the world, with projects in 10 U.S. states. The project funding is being arranged by Loy Farm Solar LLC, which is leasing the property from Elon University for 20 years. Suntuity is working with an engineer and contractors to erect racks holding 9,900 photovoltaic panels on the property.

Loy Farm includes the Elon Environmental Center, a research facility for the university’s academic programs that includes a greenhouse, agricultural plots, responsible architecture studio and a composting facility. The solar farm will support the educational mission of the university by giving students the opportunity to study the equipment, operation and economic model of the operation.

The system will generate about 4,500 megawatt hours of electricity annually, which will be sold to Duke Energy and benefit the region’s power grid. This clean energy source will provide enough electricity to power about 415 homes, and represents more than 10 percent of the university’s electrical consumption on an annual basis. The use of solar energy will avoid creation of carbon dioxide emissions totaling more than 2,100 metric tons annually, the equivalent of pollution produced by about 450 cars.

“This solar farm is the latest example of Elon University’s major commitment to sustainability,” said Gerald Whittington, senior vice president for business, finance and technology. “The university’s sustainability master plan provides a comprehensive and multifaceted approach to protecting our environment, and we are proud to add this solar facility to the campus.”

Elon currently has solar electricity generating panels on the roof of Martha S. and Carl H. Lindner III hall. In addition, there are solar thermal panels producing hot water for the Colonnades Dining Hall, two buildings in the Colonnades residential neighborhood and two buildings in the Danieley residential neighborhood. The Colonnades neighborhood surrounds a geothermal field that provides heating and cooling for the five residential buildings.

Elon’s solar farm is part of a growing national effort to develop clean energy sources. Federal and state governments are promoting solar electricity generation through a solar investment tax credit, which is driving competition and technological innovation.