On June 24th the Bard Office of Sustainability and Sustainability Counsel held a Solar Dedication Ceremony celebrating the opening of a new solar photovoltaic electric system for South Hall dormitory. The South Hall solar project is an exciting leap forward in the ongoing sustainability initiatives of the college. Bard currently utilizes solar thermal and solar photovoltaic power on campus. The solar thermal systems in place at Tremblay and Keene dormitories heat fluid for exchange but do not produce electricity from solar. Instead, a glycol solution is pumped to the roof, heated and exchanged to provide hot water. In contrast a 280W array of panels at the Lorenzo Ferrari soccer field and the thirty-two newly installed panels at South Hall directly convert solar energy into electricity to directly power the campus grid.
Project director, Bard Energy Efficiency Coordinator and Bard CEP graduate Dan Smith offers a simplified explanation of how photovoltaic panels work: light energy emitted from the sun (in the form of photons) strikes the semi-conductor material of the panel surface. This impact knocks electrons from the panel, creating electrical potential. When the sun is available and there is a need for hot water in South Hall, solar electricity will heat two hot water tanks. If the tank temperatures are satisfied (between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit) solar electricity supplements South Hall’s other energy needs and any additional energy produced “pushes back” to the greater Bard grid. The panels operate in tandem with the pre-existing propane boiler system which provides space heating and hot water if the solar tanks and space heating system. Energy obtained from the panels is first used to heat hot water tanks but if it falls short at night or on cloudy days.
The South Hall project was made possible by a grant from Green Mountain Energy and supplemental funding from Bard College’s Green Fund, a revenue source generated from parking registration, ticketing fees, recycling payments and various government and utility incentives from completed construction and retrofit projects.
Green Mountain Energy is a Vermont based solar provider serving households and commercial establishments. Since their founding 1997, Green Mountain Energy has expanded offices to eleven states and helped consumers avoid a total of 30.6 billion pounds of CO2 emissions annually by using solar power. The company awarded Bard a grant as part of the Sun Club Foundation, a program offering sponsorship to non profits looking to implement solar energy (for more information, or to contribute to the Sun Club, visit www.gmsunclub.com). The system was installed by the Radiant Store, solar installers out of Troy, New York.