More solar panels planned for campus

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Known for its abundance of green space, Marietta’s campus is about to get even greener thanks to the addition of more than 100 solar panels planned for two of the College’s buildings.

The project entails the installation of 16 solar panels on Pioneer House, which is also known as the Sustainable Lifestyle House, and 100 panels on the McCoy Athletic Facility.

Julianne Gmys ’15, who serves on the Sustainability Council and Students for Environmental Awareness (SEA), is promoting the environmentally friendly investment for the College and coordinating other “Earth Week” events on campus. The events begin April 24 with “Thoughtful Thursday” in the four main dining options on campus. Parkhurst Dining will have temporary signage in Gilman, Izzy’s, Chlapaty Café and Taqueria highlighting eco-friendly choices that Parkhurst offers as well as choices that students can make to be more eco-friendly.

On April 25, The Christy Mall will feature information about several environmentally friendly programs in the works for Marietta College, including a bike sharing program, a community garden plot, and an opportunity for students to swap or repurpose their household items at the end of the academic year.

“I am organizing a ribbon cutting event for the new solar panel installations on April 25 through SEA and the Sustainability Council,” says Gmys, who is an Environmental Science major pursuing minors in Biology and Energy Systems Studies. “The Environmental Science and Energy Systems (majors) correlate very well with the solar panel project.”

This project comes on the heels of the initial solar panel installation that took place at the end of the 2012-13 academic year, when the College utilized a grant through the Dominion Foundation to install photovoltaic solar panels and a solar hot water system in the Pioneer House. When work was done on the Pioneer House last year, the infrastructure capacity involving wiring, controllers, and switches was installed to handle additional panels, which could be added later.

“The McCoy installation is all new and will require complete infrastructure,” says Associate Professor Andy Grimm, who teaches in the Edwy R. Brown Department of Petroleum Engineering and Geology.

There will be 100 panels plus the infrastructure installed on the McCoy Athletic Facility, which will give the system the capacity of 25 kilowatts. The Pioneer House will receive 16 new panels for an additional 4.0 kilowatts, bringing the total house’s generating potential to 6.0 kilowatts.

“Based on a yearly average sunshine here in Marietta of about four hours per day, McCoy will produce 100 kilowatt hours per day or 36.5 megawatt-hours per year,” Grimm says. “And with the 16 added panels, the Pioneer House will generate about 9.0 megawatt-hours per year.”

Grimm says Pickering Energy Systems (PES) will make the installations as Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).

“The way this works is that PES will purchase and install the photovoltaic systems and then sell the electricity to Marietta College at a discounted rate from what we would have to pay to the electric company,” Grimm says. “So the PPA will save the College money at no cost to us! Also, Marietta College will be able to purchase the systems at an increasingly discounted price, and at the end of 25 years, the systems will be donated to the College.”

Fred Smith, Director of the Physical Plant, says the project was made possible through the partnership the College has with Dr. Chip Pickering, who is an owner of the Parkersburg, W.Va.-based company.

“Under the partnership contract, PES installs, owns and operates the solar energy system and the College agrees to purchase the solar generated electricity at a rate less than the current average American Electric Power utility rate,” Smith says. “It is truly a win-win for all parties and is a demonstration of the College’s commitment to sustainability.”

Grimm anticipates the project to be completed by early summer, though the schedule will depend on the installer’s availability.

Once installed, real-time data collected from the photovoltaic panels will be accessible online for student educational use. The currently installed system on the Pioneer House can be viewed at https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/pv/public_systems/WRw3197228. That information will be used in Grimm’s Energy Systems and Energy Studies classes to examine alternative energy sources and energy conversion.

The panels will generate electricity for many decades beyond the quarter century mark and, at the 25 year point, will still produce about 80 percent of their initial potential.