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American University Adds 2,300 Solar Panels

American University is installing more than 2,300 solar panels to build the largest urban solar hot water system on the East Coast.

More than 2,150 photovoltaic panels will be installed at three campus buildings and three off-campus buildings by July to provide electricity and reduce carbon emissions by 557 tons per year. The new panels will increase the university's solar capacity from 27 kW to more than 532 kW, producing about 637 megawatt hours per year.

The system is being installed by Standard Solar and will be owned and operated by Washington Gas Energy Services.

Skyline Innovations will outfit four campus buildings with 174 solar thermal energy panels to provide hot water for showers and a campus dining hall. The solar thermal panels will produce 609 MWH of electricity per year or 5.7 million BTUs per day.

The project is part of AU's plan, announced last spring, to become carbon-neutral by 2020. Other initiatives include:

  • Plans to mitigate travel emissions through carbon offsets;
  • Use of wind power for all purchased electricity;
  • Plans for a wind turbine, designed by an AU professor, to be installed on top of a parking garage; and
  • The installation of a generator that will run on used cooking oil from the campus dining hall.

According to information released by the university, the new solar installations will reduce energy costs as soon as they're installed, thanks in part to federal and local incentives.

The photovoltaic system is financed through a 20-year power purchase agreement with WGES, which owns the system and sells the power it produces to AU. The solar thermal system is funded through a similar 10-year agreement with Skyline Innovations.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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