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Sunshine Power: Juniata Installs Solar Panels at Raystown Field Station

(Posted June 16, 2008)

Juniata College's Shuster Hall sporting a newly installed array of solar panels.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata College has installed a five-kilowatt array of solar power panels on the roof of Shuster Hall, the multipurpose classroom building at the college's Raystown Field Station, which will provide an estimated 20 percent of the building's total electricity usage.

"We wanted to find an opportunity to show that solar energy works in central Pennsylvania," says Sharon Yohn, co-director of the Raystown Field Station. "We wanted to install a large enough array that would be affordable for the college and produce a meaningful amount of electricity. This will give us a noticeable drop in our power costs."

The college was able to purchase the photovoltaic solar panels through a Department of Environmental Protection grant from Pennsylvania's Energy Harvest Grants program. The $46,564 grant was complemented by $15,000 in cost-sharing funds from Juniata. The Juniata grant was one of 28 institutions across Pennsylvania to receive grants from the Energy Harvests program this year.

The college installed 24 panels, each of which is roughly 3 feet by 5 feet. The panels were placed on Shuster Hall's long "shed" roof. The building was designed for the wide roof to provide passive solar heating in the winter, so the building's southern orientation positions it well for solar energy collection.

"When the solar array produces more electricity that required for the building, the power will go back to Valley Rural Electric as excess power. We will be fully integrated with the area's power grid," Yohn explains.

"We wanted to install a large enough array that would be affordable for the college and produce a meaningful amount of electricity. This will give us a noticeable drop in our power costs."
Sharon Yohn, co-director, Raystown Field Station

Shuster Hall, which is a LEED-certified "green" building, is expected to generate 6,500 kilowatt hours per year and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide.

"The addition of a solar energy system to Shuster Hall makes our field station an environmental showcase for sustainability," says Thomas R. Kepple, Juniata College president.

The solar panels were designed and installed by Envinity Inc., a State College, Pa. contractor specializing in green design and construction. "We may have to clean the panels occasionally, but it's virtually a no-maintenance system," Yohn says.

The college also has incorporated the solar energy project into its educational mission. The solar technology has already been integrated into the field station's "green building tour," which attracts more than 1,000 visitors each year. Kathy Jones, assistant professor of education, developed two "green energy" modules that will be used at the field station, in lessons delivered in educational programs on wildlife, conservation and sustainability at various businesses located near or at Raystown Lake (as part of the Raystown Conservation Environmental Partnership), and in modules for Juniata's Science in Motion program.

In addition, Juniata students will be able to monitor electricity usage and solar energy generation for Juniata' array on the Internet, which gives students insight into how structural requirements affect energy usage.

"A small house will use about 600 kilowatts per month, so our system would effectively power a small house for about 10 months," she says.



Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.