Every year the Green Fee program funds a project that will have a meaningful impact on the carbon footprint of the College.
A total of $25,000 is available for one large project, or multiple smaller projects.
In past years, smart thermostats were installed in Seward houses and energy monitoring kiosks were installed in freshmen dormitories.
Following on the heels of past years’ sustainability enhancements, this year Nicholas Weidhaas ’15, Theodore Huss ’15 and Sara Covelli ’17 received the Green Fee to install solar panels on the College’s new Garnet Commons Upperclass Apartments.
This PV system represents an expansion of Union’s solar energy use, first implemented with the construction of the Wold Center in 2011.
Sustainability Coordinator Meghan Haley Quigley described the project as the “most prominent” of all the Green Fee grant projects.
The 2015 Green Fee project consists of installing a total of 120 solar panels on Union’s new Garnet Commons Upperclass Apartments, set for completion in fall 2015.
This 30 kilowatt (kW) system will be paid for using a combination of the Green Fee grant and the College budget.
Students worked with the Green Fee Committee, Campus Engineer Marc Donovan and Lighthouse Solar to design a project that would maximize solar power generation on the new apartments.
With an estimated electricity demand of 120 kW for the apartments, this system will provide 20-30 percent of the electricity to the entire building.
A 30 kW system is expected to produce a maximum of 36,837 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy per year in the northeasern US, which isn’t too easy to visualize.
Converting this value to more palpable terms makes the environmental benefit much more understandable.
This system is estimated to offset the equivalent carbon emissions of 62,991 lbs. of CO2.
This is comparable to 2,858 gallons of gasoline per year consumed, 27,284 lbs. of coal burned, the greenhouse gases emitted by 9.1 tons of waste sent to the landfill, or the carbon sequestered by 20.8 acres of forest annually.
The panels will be installed on the most south-facing roof sections of the apartments, which will face Roger Hull Place.
When the apartments are open for students this coming fall term, students and professors alike will be able to see the solar panels from the street.
Aside from the environmental benefits of this project, there are many potential educational aspects as well.
The current construction plans include a comprehensive and interactive user-friendly kiosk describing many sustainable features of the building.
The kiosk will be installed in the entrance area to the Garnet Commons and will display live interactive information about the solar energy generation.
Daily, monthly and yearly comparisons will help students and faculty better understand the consumption variance of the solar energy system.
The system can also be used in an academic setting, with relevance in departments ranging from environmental science and geology, to electrical and mechanical engineering.
An important part of any solar project is the inverter room, where power from the PV panels is converted to usable electricity.
This will prove to be especially useful for electrical engineering classes, that can use convenient decals to pinpoint important functions in the room.
The building will also contain signs reminding students to be conscientious of their electricity usage, especially when using energy-intensive appliances such as dryers and elevators.
All of the signs are being designed by the Green Fee grant award-winning students.
It is the hope of the progenitors that such personalized signage will encourage students to take sustainability to heart, as students tend to better relate to, and therefore respond to the work of their peeers.
Their work will be acknowledged by a commemorative plaque, denoting the Green Fee grant funding source.
This exciting project helps Union further its carbon-neutral goals, and sets an example for other colleges in the northeastern US.