Allie Bedell

Equinox Staff


Although the Technology, Design, and Safety Center is still set to open for the upcoming fall semester, the future of its solar photovoltaic array, a secondary installment of the entire project, is still uncertain.

According to Jay Kahn, vice president of Finance and Planning, the solar panels will cover four-ninths of the TDS roof to help achieve the building’s ultimate goal of zero net energy.  The estimated $900,000 project, however, is still awaiting funding.

Colin Burdick, the construction clerk of the works, said in an email that he did not have much information on the panels, other than they were not included in the contracts.  Burdick has been handling the building’s contracts.

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“The larger rooftop array was designed into the building, however, didn’t make it into the base contract for financial reasons,” he wrote.  “As far as where we are regarding the PV array, I would have to defer to Vice President Kahn as he would have more information on this than I would.”

Kahn said grant proposals have been submitted to the University System Board of Trustees seeking the funds to add the solar panels to the building.  He expects to hear about whether or not the funds are granted over the summer, but said there is no concrete timeline.  If the grants are denied, he said the college will simply keep applying for more grants.

“We’ll keep looking for grants,” he said.  He noted that the solar panels will have no effect on the opening of the TDS center.

“The building is constructed and prepped.  This is completely off-schedule of the building.  This is going to happen, it’s just a matter of when it happens,” he said.

The solar panels, once installed, will continue to contribute to the building’s zero net energy goal, meaning the building ideally will produce as much energy as it consumes.

Kahn said the building will not yet be at that efficiency when it opens, though.

“The bigger issue, from the get go, was that the TDS center was designed to a higher level efficiency than we had ever set,” Kahn said

Although Pondside III, the David F. Putnam Science Center, and the heat plant were all designed to incorporate energy saving techniques, the TDS Center’s design has provided a more appropriate space than the previous buildings to integrate the three majors, improve sustainability, and “create a ‘wow’ factor,” according to Kahn.

“What the zero net energy pushed as thinking about the building in a new manner,” he said.  “To that end, solar panels are important to coming closer to the zero net energy goal.”

Larry McDonald, the chair of the Technology, Design, and Safety Department, said this zero net energy goal was important because of the values reflected within the three majors.

“In our three majors, we’re very conscious of being very environmentally efficient,” he said.  He noted that the building will allow for professors to show students exactly how the building works.  “A lot of that is going to be left visible so we can point out to our students how efficient it is.”

In addition to being a step toward a more sustainable campus, Kahn emphasized the importance the entire building as a teaching tool, including the solar panels.

“The array is a teaching device meant to provide energy back into the building and demonstrate the potential energy gain and savings in a northeast American climate,” he said.

“So this teaching resource will be valuable to Keene State College technology, design, and safety students as well as provide a demonstration project for vendors and potential photovoltaic users in the region,” he added.

Mary Jensen, the campus sustainability officer, agrees that these solar panels will be both a resource and model for the campus.

“It seems like a really good opportunity for the campus to model this technology,” she said.  “I think if it’s successful, we’ll certainly look at other opportunities.”

Jensen noted that these solar panels, to her knowledge, are the only ones of their kind in the area.  She said the field house at Marlborough College is solar heated, but that otherwise, KSC will be one of the first to incorporate this technology.

“Using our campus as a living laboratory makes sense where it’s cost effective,” Jensen said.


Allie Bedell can be contacted at

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