Let the Sun Shine
Susquehanna furthered its sustainability efforts this summer with the installation of two 11×11-foot solar arrays, funded by a generous donation from Trustee Sandy Rocks '75.
Inspiration for the solar photovoltaic (PV) system came from a solar energy conference attended last summer by Derek Straub, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, and three earth and environmental sciences majors, Dustin Koons '11, Michelle Siegel '10 and Andrew Cole '10.
“The first step in any movement is to educate people. These new arrays will do that for the students and for the community,” Cole says.
Located behind the Art Studio, each array consists of eight 200-watt solar panels mounted on 10-foot poles, Straub says. One of the arrays is fixed, facing due south at all times. The other includes a tracking mechanism that allows it to follow the sun across the sky from dawn until dusk.
The system produces about 3,900 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, equaling about one-quarter to one-third of the electricity used by a typical home. “Although the amount of electricity generated is small in comparison to SU’s total annual consumption, our primary motivation for installing the arrays on campus is educational,” says Straub.
“The point of the arrays,” Siegel adds, “is to show how they work and to energize interest in this alternative energy choice.”
Straub says the solar arrays can be used in class and lab settings to give students hands-on experience with PV technology. They also can be used as a case study on a renewable energy project. “We will be incorporating monitoring equipment into our system and making the data available on the Internet and on displays in the new science building,” Straub says. “This will give students the opportunity to assess the performance of the arrays and to evaluate the benefits of the system in relation to its costs.”
In addition, educational tours and workshops will be offered to the community. These tours will range from basic introductions to solar energy for school groups to technical workshops for homeowners interested in installing their own systems. “Hopefully the arrays will inspire people to ask themselves what they can do to be more green,” Koons says.
The solar arrays build on other sustainability efforts undertaken recently by the university, including construction of a LEED-certified science building and student housing, the use of geothermal heating, completion of an environmental audit of campus, a strong recycling program and student-led initiatives to reduce campus power consumption.
Contributing writers to the People & Places section are Victoria Kidd and Billie Tadros ’10.