Soaking Up the Sun: Kent State’s First Renewable Energy Project
Kent State University is in the process of installing 1,716 solar panels on the Kent State Field House located on the Kent Campus. The panels will cover almost one acre of roof area or nearly 0.5 megawatt of panel capacity. This installation is believed to be the largest roof mounted system among Ohio’s public universities.
The project, scheduled to be completed in early July, is the first renewable energy project for Kent State.
The solar panels will generate about 500,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, which is about one-third of the annual power used by both the university’s Field House and Dix Stadium – enough to power about 50 average homes. The project will eliminate an average of 779,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year, which is roughly equivalent to removing 70 cars from the road per year.
“We have been searching for funding opportunities to install solar panels on this roof for many years, and it is great to see the installation underway,” said Tom Euclide, Kent State’s associate vice president for Facilities Planning and Operations. “The benefits of adding this renewable energy source to our campus energy portfolio will not only help keep our costs lower for decades to come, but will also provide a visual reminder of Kent State’s leadership in sustainability, energy conservation and the use of renewable energy.”
The solar panels will be installed by Ohio developer Third Sun Solar and Wind Power located in Athens, and contractor Thompson Electric Inc. in Munroe Falls.
“Facilitating the installation of energy-saving technologies and now, renewable solar energy systems, is extremely satisfying,” said Robert Misbrener, project manager, sustainability, energy conservation, commissioning in the Office of the University Architect at Kent State. “The true goal is to demonstrate our stewardship of the environment and empower generations of students to carry that mission to the world.”
Kent State does not initially own the solar panel system, but will purchase all the electricity produced with the option to purchase the system after seven years. Some larger electrical system components are being included for the potential expansion of the Kent State Field House facility.
“The sun’s energy can fulfill the world’s power needs many times over,” Misbrener said. “Sunlight contains energy that can be turned into electrical current, which can be harnessed for power. There are no harmful emissions from the sun as an energy source; it won’t run out, and best of all it’s free.”
Kent State already produces most of its own energy in its combined heat and power plant that uses natural gas to power electric turbines. The heat typically wasted to the atmosphere in a power plant is saved and used to heat and cool the campus, making the university’s power production substantially more energy efficient than utility power systems. The university will reduce the amount of fossil fuel used as it continues to explore renewable energy as one of its sustainability initiatives.
“The plans for Kent State’s sustainability are new and exciting,” said Melanie Knowles, sustainability manager for Facilities Planning and Operations at Kent State. “The phase that follows will help us use energy wisely across campus.”
Kent State continues to work on energy conservation projects and new ideas that drive its momentum in sustainability. The Office of the University Architect is currently managing three large energy conservation projects, including a 340,000-square-foot project at Kent State University at Stark, 810,000 square feet at its Ashtabula, East Liverpool, Geauga, Salem and Trumbull campuses, and a 1.8 million-square-foot project on the Kent Campus’ Residence Services buildings. The university’s combined reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is equivalent to removing 1,287 cars from the road each year with annual utility cost savings of about $2.4 million. The final phase of planned large energy conservation projects will be at the Kent Campus and will address about 3.6 million square feet.
For more information about Kent State’s sustainability efforts, contact Knowles at mknowle1 [at] kent.edu.