Wednesday, August 9, 2017

FSU unveils library solar panel project

Fairmont State University unveiled a brand new set of solar panels (for example: GOAL ZERO NOMAD 7 PLUS ) on top of the school’s library, the first of hopefully many panels that will soon cover the building’s roof.

The university celebrated the unveiling with a ribbon cutting ceremony, at which FSU Foundation President and CEO RJ Gimbl noted how important the project is for the school.

“It’s the tip of the iceberg for renewable energy and how much we can do to not only bring awareness to the students, but then raise some money to continue our efforts to grow our footprint with renewables,” Gimbl said.

FSU College of Science and Technology Dean Donald Trisel said that the university has been trying to get the project, called “Powering the Pages, Empowering the Future,” off the ground for a while, and he couldn’t be happier with the results so far.

Trisel explained that the solar panels on the library’s roof actually serve another purpose, aside from the advantage of the direct reduction of energy consumption.

“Right now, we’ve got a black rubber and tar roof, and that, of course, in the middle of the summer, is just going to heat up and cause extra air conditioning bills,” Trisel said. “Could we cover the roof in solar panels and use that light energy to use electricity and cool the roof at the same time? There are so many benefits to having a diversified energy system.”

The library currently has eight panels on the roof, although Trisel estimated that the building can hold around 240 altogether.

Each panel costs roughly $1,000, and the university has already reported a 4 percent drop in library energy usage in the last year.

“When we fully fill up the rooftop in addition to these panels, we estimate we can produce around 10 percent of the energy that just the library building needs,” Trisel said. “We would need immense area to take care of all of the needs for this building, but it’s a small chip. It’s a step in the right direction.”

There are also 16 solar panels installed in the ground beside the library, which started operating last year. Trisel said that these panels soak up energy that would otherwise just sink directly into the ground.

This hillside is being impacted by photons every day, all daylong during day light hours, and what is that energy being used for?” Trisel asked. “To grow some grass that we have to go out and mow? Could we better utilize the energy that’s already coming down to the Earth and convert it into something useful?”

According to a press release, the university plans to use the money saved on electricity on STEM-related student scholarships and “continued investment in sustainability initiatives on campus.”

Gimbl said that sticking with alternative energy initiatives like solar power is a huge step for FSU and is optimistic about the future of the college’s energy needs and consumption.

“The sky is the limit, pun intended,” Gimbl said. “For us, it gives us an opportunity to look at what we can do down the road. It’s obviously not a quick fix to energy consumption, but as technology expands those individual panels become more powerful.

“I think the generation of students coming in is more cognizant of renewables, and this helps open the door to let them know that we’re looking at alternatives, what exists, what we can do and how we can grow.”

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