Susquehanna University Finds Power in the Sun

Solar array to be installed week of April 13
Selinsgrove, Pa. – Green energy will move well beyond the science classroom when solar panels are installed next week on the campus of Susquehanna University. The two solar arrays – one fixed, facing south, and one following the sun from dawn to dusk – will be placed 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. Installation is expected to take a week. 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.

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