Thursday, November 10, 2011

PLU creates own solar system

Solar panels will be ‘physical manifestation’ of sustainability

By Nick Neely, News Reporter

Pacific Lutheran University’s Sustainability Department has a sunny future in energy conservation. Starting in March of next year, PLU will add solar panels to the roof of the facilities building.

Student Worker for Sustainability senior Orion Bras is in charge of the project to add solar panels to the campus. Bras works with non-profit organization Solar4RSchools, which is paying for roughly 70 percent of the cost. Parkland Light and Water is paying for another 14 percent.

The organization also offers education about the science of solar panels to schools.

Bras said solar panels at PLU would be more effective than the Pacific Northwest’s less-than-sunny reputation might suggest.

“Keep in mind the summer time is often a very sunny period [in Washington],” Bras said. “We’re in school for a large proportion of the cloudy days. That can skew things.”

Bras said Washington receives 80 percent of the sun California does and solar panels are far more efficient in colder weather. Washington receives 3.7 Watts/Meter - a measurement of solar energy - whereas the brightest place on Earth receives 8 Watts/Meter.

Solar4RSchools has 121 projects in Washington, the most of any U.S. state, according to its website. This is twice the number of the state with second-most projects, Oregon, with only 56 projects.

Bras said the energy generated by the new solar panels will go into a grid that powers the entire school, reducing the overall usage of non-sustainable energy, but that energy will not fully cover the energy consumption of the building on which the panels will be built.

“The main goal of having the solar panels is awareness of what’s happing,” Bras said.

Bras said that the panels are a physical manifestation of PLU’s attempt to be sustainable.

A UC kiosk will display a live readout of the energy the solar panels generate at any given time.

The only solar system on campus is attached to the lamppost outside Tingelstad.