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Sun power harnessed at Appalachian

RaleySolar_t.jpgBOONE—Employees with Southern Energy Management have installed a four kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system near Raley Hall on the Appalachian State University campus. The system will convert solar energy into approximately 5,250 kilowatt hours of electricity each year—about enough energy to power an energy-efficient home.

Raley Solar_t2.jpgAppalachian State University alumni and employees of Southern Energy Management have installed the framework that will support a photovoltaic system on campus. They are Jimmy Thompson, 2006 appropriate technology graduate, Justin Stiles, 2008 appropriate technology graduate, Max Isaacs, 2003 psychology graduate, and J.R. Whitley, 2006 appropriate technology graduate. (photo by university photographer Marie Freeman)

Electricity from the system will be sold onto the NRL&P grid and additional revenue will come from selling the associated Green-Power credits.

The project was funded by a $5 per semester student fee called the Renewable Energy Initiative (REI) that was begun in 2005 to support renewable energy initiatives on campus. The project will cost about $55,000.

“This past year, our student body voted by a 93 percent majority to continue to assess themselves an additional $5 per semester in fees to go towards the installation of renewable energy projects on campus,” said Ged Moody, a May 2006 graduate who chaired REI spring semester.

Input from students in REI was used to create a design that compliments the area mountains.

“This is one of the most interesting displays of photovoltaic technology we’ve worked on,” said Shawn Fitzpatrick, renewable energy engineer for Southern Energy Management, which has offices in Raleigh and Charlotte. “Compared to typical solar PV systems, the array at Raley Hall is somewhat of an engineering novelty due to its unusual triangular shaped modules, which were integrated into the design to create a symbolic representation of the mountains. In addition, all of our installers who worked on this job are ASU graduates, so that made this project even more meaningful for us.”

REI fees were used to purchase a 10,000-gallon biodiesel storage tank used by the university and Boone’s AppalCart public transportation system and PV panels that provide electricity for the university’s biodiesel collaborative project, a closed-loop biodiesel processing facility. The fees also supported installation of a 1.5 kilowatt PV system installed on the roof of Kerr Scott Hall.

Future projects include installation of solar thermal collectors on Plemmons Student Union to provide hot water for use in the building and installation of a wind turbine near the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center. An information kiosk in Plemmons Student Union will provide live data from all renewable energy systems on campus and display information about the REI.

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