Solar Panels atop New Science Building Add to Campus Energy Mix

photo from solar panels atop NSB

A solar panel system has been installed atop Eastern Kentucky University’s New Science Building. The seven-panel solar array, which will incorporate a small but expandable renewable energy source into the campus energy mix, will serve as a pilot to explore the practical viability of solar energy as a campus and regional energy source.

Bluegrass Greensource (formerly Bluegrass PRIDE) contributed a $5,000 mini-grant to help fund the project, expected to total approximately $13,000. The remainder is covered by the EKU Office of Sustainability and a $1,400 donation from the EKU Student Government Association.

The 1.6 kWh system, installed by Sunlink Solar of Somerset just beyond the east end of the building, is wired directly into the power grid for the building, EKU’s first facility built to LEED standards. Eastern students will be involved in the ongoing monitoring of output, efficiency and energy. Data provided by the real-time monitoring system can be used to develop real-time displays of performance data for building efficiency and for educational purposes. The output can be incorporated into either on-site or web-based dashboard display.

Also, students at Model Laboratory School and Madison Middle School will learn more about solar energy through upcoming projects involving the system.

Over a year’s time, it is anticipated that the system will produce 1,460 kWh, reducing the University’s carbon footprint by 1.57 tons annually, according to Dr. Alice Jones, director of EKU’s Office of Sustainability.

At its current size, the system would pay for itself in 10 years and provide about one-third of the power for an average-size home; Jones hopes more panels can be added later. The system can be expanded to 17 panels with no additional wiring.

A series of interpretive signs throughout the New Science Building will highlight the new system and many other “green” features of the New Science Building.

Amy Sohner, executive director of Bluegrass Greensource, said the installation represents “a great opportunity” for EKU.

Recent studies show that, increasingly, students consider an institution’s environmental record when making their college choice.

Published on June 28, 2013

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