Possible funding adds solar projects

Autumn Hord

The state might fund VCU solar projects, generating new ideas for more on-campus thermal panels and adding to existing solar projects on campus. VCU’s Director of Sustainability Jacek Ghosh, said the state might fund the university for more solar projects on campus, which could lead to solar panels on parking garages. “The final details are being negotiated,” Ghosh stated in an e-mail. “The Commonwealth of Virginia can be very slow in these matters.”

Late last summer, VCU installed a system of 30 solar panels on the MCV Campus Steam Plant, which provides steam power for heating and sterilization for much of the MCV Campus, the VCU Health System and nearby state and private office buildings in downtown Richmond. This 6.6-kilowatt solar panel array helps VCU offset about 7,000 metric tons of carbon gases each year. The solar panels on the MCV Campus Steam Plant were installed by City Space Solar, a renewable energy company that focuses on solar energy in residential and commercial construction.

VCU has installed two PV solar-powered trash compactors, the one at the Stuart C. Siegel Center helps manage waste after sporting, concert and other large-scale events. The solar-powered trash compactors have five times the capacity of standard trashcans with fewer collections and up to 80-percent emissions reductions. According to the BigBelly Web site, energy from the sun is the only new input Earth receives every day and it is free, silent and non-polluting.

In 20 days, the sun provides the equivalent amount of energy that is contained in all of the coal, oil and gas reserves combined. VCU has added the first solar thermal system to the historic Ginter House on Monroe Park Campus. The system reduces the building’s hot water CO2 emissions by 77 percent annually, which saves 13,400 KBTU, according to the Richmond By Solar Web site. KBTU equals 1,000 British thermal units. One unit equals the amount of heat required to raise one pound of water by one degree fahrenheit.

The solar thermal system is a water and food-grade glycol-(antifreeze) closed loop system. The mixture circulates through two solar collectors and a heat-exchanger tank in a continuous cycle controlled by a differential thermostat, states the solar Web site. No maintenance is needed besides occasional visual inspection.

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