Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Sunday, February 25, 2018

AU unveils record-breaking campus solar energy plan

AU unveils record-breaking campus solar energy plan

AU will install D.C.’s largest solar power system and the largest urban solar hot water system on the East Coast by July, as part of the University’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2020.

More than 2,150 solar photovoltaic panels, which directly convert sunlight into electricity, will provide electricity for the Mary Graydon Center.

An additional 174 solar thermal energy panels will supply hot water for the Letts, Anderson and Centennial residence halls next year, according to an AU press release.

The system will only provide water for three residence halls, since a project of that size would already be the largest on the East Coast, according to Sustainability Director Chris O’Brien.

Skyline Innovations Inc., a local solar energy company, will provide this solar power system.

“This is such a huge project,” O’Brien said. “Skyline Innovations told us, ‘We’ve never done something this big.’”

The solar thermal energy panels convert sunlight to thermal energy, which is used to heat the tank of water that provides hot water to AU South side residents.

The 2,300 solar panels provide enough electricity to avoid releasing 557 tons of carbon per year, according to the press release.

Standard Solar, a local D.C. energy company, will install the 2,300 solar panels on six University buildings: MGC, Katzen Arts Center, Bender Library, Washington College of Law, 3201 New Mexico Ave. and 4200 Wisconsin Ave.

“This is a big step toward carbon neutrality,” O’Brien said. “With these two projects, we’re maxing out.” AU held a groundbreaking ceremony for these installments on April 20 in celebration of Earth Day.

“Green energy is 100 percent present at AU,” President Neil Kerwin said. “This is a tremendous breakthrough.”

AU currently purchases 100 percent of its electricity from wind-powered sources, according to the press release.

A similar solar power system provides electricity for the new School of International Service building, which is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold-certified building.

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