Facilities Management

Solar panels to be installed on EHS Building; energy will be used to help heat structure

In January, one environmentally friendly building on campus will become even greener.

To save the university money and become more environmentally sustainable, solar panels are set to placed on top of the Education and Human Services Building.

“It’s already the greenest building on campus,” said Steve Lawrence, associate vice president of Facilities Management. “Let’s make it greener.”

The first candidate for the panels was the Student Activity Center. They would have been used to heat the swimming pools and other domesticated water in the SAC. The panels could also have been used to power air conditioning units.

The decision to move the panels was made because concentrate their green initiative on one building, Lawrence said.

The solar panels would require less steam from the Power House and help the absorption chiller with heating and cooling the air and water, said Michael Walton, director of energy optimization.

“We wanted to get into sustainable energy options,” Walton said. “This application also gave us the best possible return on our investment.”

The university purchased 50 solar panels and used one of them as a mock up for Earth Day, Walton said. The cost totalled approximately $40,000 — about $800 per panel.

Energy from the solar panels will be used for the primary source at EHS. When the solar panels cannot fill the energy needs, the heating system will take over automatically. One panel alone can pump 3,000 BTUs a day, with maximum heat extraction occurring over the summer.

Lawrence said the university does not have an estimate for how much the panels will save in power costs.
The solar panels are 10 by 5.5 feet, said Jessica Ebels, director of academic space and remodeling.

The only negative part of the project is the solar panels’ cost.

“Green costs green,” Walton said.

The shelf life for a solar panel is 25 years, requiring little maintenance, she said.

“They’re fairly easy to assemble,” Walton said. “But when you have 60 panels it takes some time.”

When it is complete, a station will be set up in the lobby of the EHS Building to show students how much energy is being extracted. Construction could begin as early as Nov. 1.

“There is a 10 to 15 day bidding period for a contractor at the end of this week,” Ebels said. “They are hoped to be selected by the end of October.”

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