By Melissa Toothman
Local college students have been getting curious about solar panels.
Photo courtesy of getpimby.blogspot.com
Bethany Hall and Russ McClain are pictured with the solar panel they installed last year in a gazebo on the Davis & Elkins College campus. Other students involved in the installation who were not photographed include Barry Scott, David Goodman, Bob Fellenstein, Jennifer Boyle and GreenWorks! President Bonnie Little.
A student from Alderson-Broaddus College and another from West Virginia Wesleyan College have worked on similar solar projects. A group of students from Davis & Elkins College also took an interest in solar power, having installed a solar panel in a gazebo on campus about a year ago.
Professor Tom Berlin, associate professor of environmental sciences at A-B College, said one student is working on a senior project to research the feasibility and come up with a plan. Brandon Cochran is a double major in chemistry and environmental science at A-B College who wrote a proposal for the installation of a solar panel on the roof of Kemper-Redd on campus. The proposal will be part of his senior project for the fiscal year of 2012-2013.
This project would allow students to learn about alternative energy, how to monitor the system and keep track of energy usage and input. Berlin estimated that the project would require about $30,000 to fund.
"What I'd like to do is install some solar panels on the roof of Kemper-Redd, (and) have one classroom set up where we basically run the class off alternative energy, computers and all," Berlin said.
Berlin and Cochran spoke with Alderson-Broaddus College President Richard A. Creehan.
"He's of course very supportive, unfortunately we don't have any cash to put into the project. We'll have to find it somewhere," Berlin said.
The plan may involve searching and applying for a grant to come up with part or all of the money required, but Berlin and Cochran are still hopeful.
Meanwhile, West Virginia Wesleyan already has a solar panel in place above the entrance of Christopher Hall of Science. It was installed this year and funded by Scott Roberts, a senior engineering/physics major.
Roberts wanted to learn about the installation of a solar panel in the interest of repeating the process at his home.
He discovered Thomas Brennan, research assistant professor of physics, had a mutual interest in renewable energy, so he approached Brennan with his idea for the project. Brennan previously worked with solar panels and often could be seen on campus using small solar panels as a power source for a guitar and amplifier.
The two searched online for a solar panel, storage batteries and a charge controller. The solar panel was installed by Wesleyan Physical Plant employees after Brennan and Roberts prepared the panel.
The solar panel will provide power to offices within the building. Roberts will analyze the panel's efficiency and begin studying the possible ways to improve the solar power system further.
Roberts said he hopes the solar panel will remain on campus permanently and that the college begins to take advantage and become more aware of solar energy.
Wesleyan and A-B College are not alone in their pursuit for alternative energy on campus. About a year ago, Davis & Elkins College installed a solar panel on a gazebo by a pond called Lake Tolstead.
"It powers super-efficient LED lighting for our campus pond gazebo, which did not have electricity to it," said Russ McClain, director of the Center for Sustainability Studies.
The center and the college's student group GreenWorks installed the solar-powered lighting in the gazebo using the technology and guidance provided by Power in My Backyard, (PIMBY), a company in Thomas dedicated to alternative energy.
"It was a great learning experience, and the students now can track the energy production across the seasons as well as have knowledge of the capabilities of an entirely off-grid installation," McClain said.
The students in GreenWorks came up with the idea and prepared a proposal about it for the Student Assembly.
The lights installed in the gazebo are powered from dusk to dawn by the solar panel and sensor switch, providing students with a safer and more inviting gathering location.