Thanks to much fundraising, Keene State College can continue to strive towards efficiency and a zero net energy building with the soon-to-be solar panels on top of the Technology, Design, and Safety Building.
According to KSC Interim President Jay Kahn, one of the three main goals of the TDS Building was to have the building produce as much energy as it consumes: zero net energy. He said he knew it would be difficult, but the school needed a way for the building to produce energy on site, and solar energy was the best option. “Solar ray was always a part of the original thought to move towards a zero net energy goal,” Kahn said. “When we approached the trustees initially with the project we said that we would complete the project without asking for funding and internal borrowing for the solar panels.”
Kahn said those involved, including himself, anticipated that it would require fundraising in order for the photovoltaic system, which uses solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity, to be a part of the building. He said this project moved at a very swift pace. They designed it in one year and constructed it in another year.
“The fundraising effort, which began in earnest, in 2012, has now reached a high enough level that we could construct a partial photovoltaic system that covers about half of the roof with the amount of money that’s been raised to date,” Kahn said. Although some may be skeptical of the school not completing the project all at once, Kahn said that he sees a benefit to the incompletion.
“One of the benefits to not completing the photovoltaic array all at one time is that this technology continues to advance,” Kahn added.
He continued, “We might have different technologies or advanced technologies that will perform differently under different climate conditions, and provide even greater educational value to the students over time.”
Even with just one type of photovoltaic system, Kahn said there is a lot students can learn from this system. “Students can monitor its performance under different conditions, meaning the time of year, the height of the sun, and length of the day,” Kahn added.
He said the project takes about nine weeks and will likely go into December to complete. Although the TDS Center’s main source of energy is electricity, Kahn said that over the entire year the photovoltaic array will provide 15 percent of all the electricity consumed within the building.
According to TDS Professor Rick Foley, having zero net energy is the “in” language in architecture in regards to going green. He said the TDS Center is fairly efficient, but it will be a challenge to reach net zero energy.
“We have a lot of commercial and industrial operations going on,” Foley said. “So for a building this size you have to worry about heating, ventilation, air conditioning [no air conditioning yet], plug loads, and light loads.”
He explained that the school would not have this kind of struggle with a normal building with just classrooms. Foley said it’s because of all the heavy duty equipment using up so many electrons that make it difficult to make the building a net zero energy space.
During the summer, Foley said the idea is that perhaps the photovoltaics will just about match the electrical needs of the building, and in the winter, maybe supply about 25 percent. He also added that the photovoltaics are designed in a sloping structure so that during the winter months, snow will slide right off the roof.
According to the TDS Chair, Larry McDonald, he said he doesn’t think they will be able to meet the goal of net zero energy this year.
“I think it will take some time because the panels won’t provide 100 percent of the electricity, and there is a high use of electricity in this building because of all the machinery that is used in classes,” McDonald said. He thinks it would require additional panels, besides covering the whole roof, to provide 100 percent net zero energy. McDonald said panels could be located on different places on campus and still provide energy to the TDS Building.
As far as the actual construction of the panels is concerned, Construction Clerk of the Works, Colin Burdick said they haven’t scheduled the day yet, but many supplies have arrived. He said they’re waiting on steel, which is on its way to campus. He estimates that this project will be done before the start of 2013. Along with what McDonald said about needing more panels, Burdick said that once the roof is covered completely with panels, they would provide about 60 percent of the electricity load.
“So there was some talk of maybe having some solar panels on top of some kind of sheltered parking section in the parking lot for the TDS Building, or having panels over by the athletic fields that send power back to the TDS Building, but those are just some ideas,” Burdick added.
Burdick said he thinks the solar energy is almost like free energy, because the school is investing in a renewable resource.
Lindsey Arceci can be contacted at email@example.com.