Eco-Living Magazine

American University Readies One of the Largest Solar Systems in Washington, D.C.

Posted on the 08 June 2011 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

American University Readies One of the Largest Solar Systems in Washington, D.C.The nation’s capital has a mandate for renewable energy and American University is not letting that fact pass them by. Next month, the school plans to have more than 2,150 solar panels installed on six of its buildings in what will be the largest solar power system in DC and the largest urban solar hot water system on the east coast. 174 solar thermal panels on 4 buildings convert sunlight into thermal energy, which is sent to a tank to provide solar heated water for hot showers to more than 2,000 students living on campus.

Chris O’Brien, director of sustainability at American University remarked, “Not only is solar power the right thing to do, it will also reduce the university’s energy costs the day we flip the switches on the new systems, proving that solar can be clean and green. We are also working to explore other ways to develop even larger scale renewable energy sources in the Washington region, so stay tuned.”

This is all part of the university’s plan to become a carbon-neutral campus by 2020. From the same article quoted above,

AU is reducing energy consumption, using wind power for 100% of its purchased electricity, exploring large-scale renewable energy development in the DC area, and planning to mitigate university travel emissions by supporting carbon offset projects this year. Plans are underway to create energy on campus by installing a wind turbine, designed by an [American University] AU professor, to be placed atop a parking garage, and will install a generator that runs on used cooking oil from the campus dining hall. Electricity from the solar photovoltaic panels will avoid more than 557 tons of carbon per year, the equivalent of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from 57,500 gallons of gasoline annually, or nearly 1 million gallons over twenty years.

The school is only ramping up its efforts to go green, building on achievements such as the LEED Gold certified School of International Service building. AU also earned a STARS gold rating in January from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System developed by AASHE representatives from colleges and universities, higher education associations, related nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government agencies. 

The school is also keeping the project local, hiring Standard Solar Inc. of Rockville, Md. to install the panels. Washington Gas Energy Services Inc. will be the owner-operator of the system. Skyline Innovations, a Washington, D.C.-based solar energy company, is providing the solar thermal system.

Colleges – independent institutions with a young and energetic student population and the ability to thinking and act outside the box – are great places for new ideas, experimentation, and can often ignite trends that spread across the country. The future of the energy revolution looks more promising with schools like AU, Emory, and others across the nation moving boldly on sustainability.


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