Carr Hall receives solar panels for student comp

Next semester, Carr Hall will be the recipient of the college’s first set of solar panels, energy display screens and a whole wealth of knowledge.

Carlyn Johnson/THE CAMPUS

The panels are the senior project and brainchild of Carlyn Johnson, ’11, who has designed a comp that will double as an energy producer and an educational force. These panels are separate from the ones that the school is due to receive in the wake of October’s Energy Challenge.

UGI Performance Solutions, an engineering company that deals with green energy and design, donated the panels.  In exchange, the business requested that students conduct an audit on how energy is used in Carr Hall.  This type of communication between UGI and universities is unprecedented, according to Rich Bowden, environmental science professor and reader for the project along with physics Professor Adele Poynor.

“UGI has said they would provide panels in exchange for information so they can expand this program to other colleges, and they’re using us as a test bit in how to run it,” said Bowden.

Other potential recipients of this type of program will be colleges in the Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium, a group with 57 member colleges committed to developing green energy.

“We’re the first school to go through a program like this,” Johnson said. “UGI wants to show us to other schools in PERC as an example of what they can do.”

The panels will be tied to two data logging systems, which will be hooked up to displays in the lobby of Carr Hall.  Although the panels will generate energy, it is a relatively small amount, and will not be the predominate source of power in Carr, according to Johnson.

“[My comp] is more about using Carr Hall as a microcosm of looking at energy efficiency and energy management,” Johnson said. “If we put a solar array on Carr, then invest that money into producing our own electricity in other ways, it could end up as being cost-neutral.”

“Carr was chosen because that’s where the Environmental Science Department is supposed to be moving,” Bowden said. “The display is also beneficial because it can be used in exercises for both physics experiments and environmental science projects.”

Setup of the panels will begin next semester. Johnson will receive assistance on the installation from outside engineer NWPA Engineering Services free of charge.

The panels will also be incorporated into the Green Tour, a project devised by Alison Elic, ’11, and Sustainability Coordinator Kelly Boulton that will create an online showcase of Allegheny’s green efforts.

“This is a comp project that came out of the fact that Allegheny does a lot of amazing sustainability work,” said Boulton.  “The problem is that we’ve done such a good job of integrating green efforts in a way that is so seamless that it’s invisible.”

To draw attention to these efforts, the solar panels will be featured on the Green Tour website, along with other green campus endeavors including composting, the green cleaning program and the dining services’ herb gardens.

Johnson said that much of her inspiration for the project came from internship opportunities, particularly in working with Nexamp, a solar energy company that has grown from three to 75 employees in the past three years.

“[Nexamp] is such a good example of how investment in clean energy has grown,” said Johnson.  “We need more students to be graduating with a knowledge of clean energy.  That’s why I really believe in this comp.”

Once the panels are installed and the project is complete, the end product will be a website detailing the project and discussing clean energy. The website will provide another outlet for energy education, in addition to displays that will educate every student that steps into Carr Hall next year.