Installation to benefit campus facilities and environmental science students
By Mandi Enger
Working towards the development of a more self-sustained campus, Nevada State College (NSC) has installed a 205-kilowatt solar array on its emerging 509-acre property in Henderson. With construction beginning in October 2012, the array will be fully operational mid-February.
In the first year of use, NSC estimates the solar array will provide 30 percent of the power needed for the Liberal Arts and Sciences building, saving the college nearly $28,000 in energy costs.
As NSC continues to expand in both square footage and enrollment, we’ve made a long-term commitment to increase our energy efficiency and to reduce our carbon footprint, said Buster Neel, the college’s vice president of finance and administration. The solar panels will assist with this goal while also providing the college a substantial cost savings.
Funding for the construction and materials was provided through an NV Energy rebate program, RenewableGenerations, which provided upwards of $780,000 for the project.
The project contractor, Black Rock Solar, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the expansion of renewable energy sources. The business has built systems for other public institutions such as schools, churches, hospitals, and museums.
Black Rock Solar is proud to be able to provide this array – the second largest we’ve built so far – to NSC, said Black Rock Solar Executive Director Patrick McCully. The school can now put money it once spent on electricity into serving its richly diverse student body. This is the fifth array we’ve completed for a school in the Nevada System of Higher Education and we applaud their commitment to sustainability through building clean solar power.
The solar array system is comprised of photovoltaic polycrystalline panels, each measuring 3 feet by 5 feet, covering approximately one acre of the college.
NSC is additionally working to increase energy efficiency throughout all campus buildings, including the leased Dawson building and downtown Basic and Water buildings. Efforts include the use of variable frequency drives (VFDs), which control the rate that mechanical devices such as lights and air conditioners power up; Nest Generation Thermostats, smart devices that sense the number of building occupants in order to assess and adjust temperature needs; and the use of LED light bulbs.
Plans for future building development on campus, including the college’s current proposal for a 60,000 square-foot nursing and education building and a 50,000 square-foot student center and administration facility, include tactics for achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
The solar array will additionally play a role in providing hands-on experience to students in environmental science courses at the college.
While the main purpose of the solar array is to supply clean electricity to the campus, we will begin to utilize its educational value in environmental science and meteorology classes this spring semester, said Assistant Professor of Environmental Science Edwin Price. Students will be able to monitor the array’s output instantaneously online at home and in the classroom. Very importantly, students will be able to make their own calculations of the amount of fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas, that the solar array has saved over the period of their course.