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Susquehanna University Finds Power in the Sun

June 17, 2009

SELINSGROVE, Pa. – Green energy has moved well beyond the science classroom on the campus of Susquehanna University, where a set of solar panels was installed last week. Eventually, two solar arrays – one fixed, facing south, and one following the sun from dawn to dusk – will sit on top of 10-foot poles behind the art studio building, not far from the university’s new “green” science building, and will serve as both energy source and educational tool.

Spearheaded by Derek Straub, assistant professor in Susquehanna’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, with funding shared by the university and a private donation, the project supports the university’s commitment to sustainable practices, including constructing the eco-friendly science building and West Village dormitories, using geothermal heating in those dorms, conducting an environmental audit, maintaining a strong recycling program and supporting student-led initiatives to reduce campus power consumption.

Each 11-by-11-foot solar array consists of eight 200-watt solar panels and will generate about 3,900 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year – enough to supply one-quarter to one-third of the electricity used by a typical home, according to Straub. While that’s a modest amount compared to the needs of the entire campus, Straub says the panels will help students, campus visitors, area businesses and homeowners, and others to learn more about implementing solar energy.

“The arrays can be used in a class or lab setting to give students hands on experience with solar PV technology, “said Straub. “They can also be used as a case study to explore the planning, budgeting, construction, permitting, trade-offs and complications involved in the development of a renewable energy project.”

Casual visitors, too, can learn from the display. “We are hoping to include the solar arrays as a tour stop for green or eco-tours that originate from the new LEED-certified science building,” Straub said. “We’ll also offer workshops for the local community, with the solar arrays as the focal point. These will range from basic introductions to solar energy for school groups to more technical workshops targeted to homeowners interested in installing their own systems.”

The location for the solar panels was chosen for its optimum sun exposure and accessibility. Once in operation, the system’s performance will be monitored, and resulting data will be posted online and on displays in the new science building so observers can compare benefits to cost.

“We hope to promote solar energy as an alternative and sustainable energy source,” Straub said. “Solar and other alternative energy sources will become more important as we transition away from fossil fuels, either to reduce their tremendous environmental impact or as a result of tightening supplies.”

For more information, contact Straub at 570-372-4767 or straubd@susqu.edu.

Founded in 1858, Susquehanna University is a national liberal arts college that prepares students for achievement, leadership and service in a diverse, interconnected world. Academic excellence, study away and service learning, student-faculty collaboration, and rich opportunities for creative and personal growth are hallmarks of a Susquehanna University education. Susquehanna students come from 30 states and 12 countries, and more than 90 percent of them find jobs or pursue graduate study within six months of graduation. The university is located in central Pennsylvania, in the town of Selinsgrove, along the banks of the scenic Susquehanna River and about three hours from major East Coast cultural, financial and recreational centers. For more information, visit www.susqu.edu.

Contact: Karen Jones

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