Hotel is just as solar-powered as Finney Chapel

To the editor:

David Orr, special assistant to the college president and the founder of the Oberlin Project, claims that the Hotel at Oberlin is solar powered, tying it to the 2.2 MW solar array north of campus. This claim is just a cheap marketing trick.

The OSSO array, built in 2012, sends 100 percent of its electricity into the city’s grid. No wires connect it to the hotel or any college building. The city has signed a 25-year contract to take all of its electricity in exchange for $0.085/kWh. Once these electrons enter the grid they go everywhere; they are not “special electrons” that only to go to college buildings. College buildings continue to purchase retail electricity as they did before the array was constructed.

The college finance office claims it does not sell all this electricity to the city. This has as much truth in it as Bill Clinton’s statement, “I never had sex with that woman.” This response comes from an organization that for years made false energy claims about the Lewis Center, built a LEED-certified dormitory with “fake” solar panels, and burned coal to heat its buildings while trumpeting its green accomplishments.

The Hotel at Oberlin will burn natural gas for its hot water and buy all its electricity from the city – projected to be nearly double that used by the building it replaces.

The college retains the solar Renewable Energy Credits from the OSSO array and can assign these to any of its buildings, even to Finney Chapel. Thus the Hotel at Oberlin is no more or less solar-powered than is Finney Chapel.

Usually a PV array is added to a building to make it greener. In this case a building has been added to a PV array to make it dirtier.

John Scofield