Kent State University in Ohio is in the process of adding solar projects in all six regional locations by spring 2021. Melink Solar is installing modules on the Geauga campus in Burton, Ohio while TEN-NINE Energy is developing the project. The floor-mounted photovoltaic solar modules will provide 322 kW of solar energy each year, which is 67% of the campus’ energy consumption.
Posts for solar panels were put up in early November and now modules are being installed. The solar panel will cover 1.27 acres along Claridon-Troy Rd., Which connects to the Kent State Geauga classroom building.
First year cost savings are estimated at $ 3,200, said Bob Misbrener, Project Manager II for Sustainability, Energy Conservation and Commissioning at the university architect’s office on the Kent campus. He also estimates the cost savings should be $ 138,682 to $ 242,339 over the next 25 years.
Misbrener stated that this innovative power purchase agreement for the state of Kent requires $ 0 out of pocket.
“We have to buy all solar power at a negotiated price for the next 25 years,” he continued. The negotiated tariff includes a minimum saving of 1.5 cents per kWh during the entire contract. “For the Geauga Campus, this means a minimum saving of USD 140,000. Total savings across all six participating regional locations: $ 1,570,000! “
The costs of solar energy have fallen by almost 70% in the last ten years, Misbrener emphasizes. “In addition to the battery storage, the efficiency of solar modules is also constantly improving.”
The Geauga solar array accounts for approximately 9% of the total amount of solar panels installed in all six Kent State locations. Similar projects are ongoing in Ashtabula (68% campus use); East Liverpool (12% campus); Salem (73% campus use); Strong (7% campus usage); Trumbull (65% campus use).
Contrary to popular belief that cloudy northeast Ohio is a bad area for solar energy, Misbrener stated that solar energy collection is actually quite effective here.
“Our area has roughly the same latitude as Germany, which has been one of the world’s leading PV installers for several years. The actual clean solar experience on our roof of the Kent Campus Field House since July 2012 has proven its effectiveness. This project developer forecast a production of 500,000 kWh per year. The system has slightly exceeded this amount every year! Kent State purchased this system from the developer earlier this year, with amortization expected in approximately seven years. Since we usually get enough rain, the panels also stay relatively clean, which also has a positive effect on production. “
Since Geauga and the other regional campus projects do not contain battery storage, they must remain connected to the power grid for the foreseeable future. “However, the Geauga solar system will produce around 67% of the total electricity requirement every year!” Misbrener emphasizes. “In my opinion, that’s pretty exciting!”
As a complementary enhancement, pollinator prairie flowers are planted throughout the solar array, which is both natural beauty and a haven for native honey bees, butterflies and other pollinators who help restore the balance to the ecosystem. This area of native perennials has the potential to become a living laboratory for further environmental, biological, and botanical studies.
With 81 prairie plant species available, they also offer sustainability benefits to keep the solar system functioning optimally. The deep roots of prairie plants promote the adsorption of rainwater and cool the soil, which allows the solar panels to work more efficiently.
Overall, Misbrener points out that the adoption of solar energy is a growing trend among colleges, but Kent State has emerged as a leader.
“The 2012 fieldhouse array was believed to be 463 kWDC at the time, the largest at any university in Ohio,” explains Misbrener. “We’re in very good company: University of Akron, University of Dayton, Ohio Northern University, Case Western Reserve University, to name a few.”
When it comes to green energy, the Geauga Campus also operates a small wind turbine that has been providing enough electricity for eight years to illuminate the LED parking lot and driveway.
“Kent Campus is fortunate to have forward-thinking and climate-conscious leadership to support low-cost renewable energy and efficiency projects,” said Misbrener. “Solar systems are a very effective and visible means of demonstrating our commitment to the environment. Reducing emissions from power plants will surely improve air quality and minimize some of the health problems of the air we all breathe. “
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