Solar power strides made on campus

CAC rooftop installation provides first electricity generated on campus

Environment and sustainability director Jim Gudjonson is no stranger to solar power. The Campus Activity Centre, Culinary Arts and Old Main buildings all began using it to heat water under his watch. But 40 new solar panels on the CAC rooftop are expected to begin producing electrical power for the building as early as this week, and Gudjonson said this marks a new achievement for TRU.

“This is the first time we’ve actually generated electricity on campus,” he said.

The new solar voltaic system, implemented in partnership with TRUSU, will provide enough electricity to power all of the lights on the student union’s side of the building.

 Left to right: Installer Greg Lambertus, TRU energy specialist Natalie Yao, TRUSU president Dylan Robinson, TRU environment and sustainability director Jim Gudjonson and engineer Ben Giudici stand on the CAC rooftop to observe the newly-installed solar voltaic panels. (Ryan Turcot/ The Omega)

Left to right: Installer Greg Lambertus, TRU energy specialist Natalie Yao, TRUSU president Dylan Robinson, TRU environment and sustainability director Jim Gudjonson and engineer Ben Giudici stand on the CAC rooftop to observe the newly-installed solar voltaic panels. (Ryan Turcot/ The Omega)

Ben Giudici, who designed the system, explained that there are 40 panels on the CAC rooftop that produce 260 watts each. Collectively, the panels will produce 10.4 kilowatts of electrical energy.

A watt is a unit of power that measures how quickly electrical energy is produced or consumed. A 100 watt lightbulb, for example, will consume energy at a faster rate than a 60 watt lightbulb.

“The panels are configured in four strings of 10 and, under good light conditions, they produce about 300 volts [of direct current],” Giudici said. “That DC power is routed to an inverter, which converts it to three-phase AC and connects it into the building.”

Gudjonson explained that sustainable energy sources like solar energy could be the next big step in TRU’s plan to reduce the campus’s energy consumption.

“We have a target to reduce our energy use by 25 per cent [below 2010 baselines] by 2017,” he explained. “Right now, compared to 2010, we’re about 15 per cent below.

“We want to study the CAC panels for a year and see how they perform.”

Gudjonson hopes that if they perform well, TRU will add solar power to the existing buildings as resources allow.

Ben Giudici explains how the system's inverter works. (Ryan Turcot/ The Omega)

Ben Giudici explains how the system’s inverter works. (Ryan Turcot/ The Omega)

“As we move forward and build new buildings, we would like to add both the solar hot water system for domestic hot water and have at least 10 per cent of their energy demands powered by solar electricity.”

Gudjonson is also looking into wind turbines as another alternative energy source.

“We haven’t started yet, but we are going to study the wind here locally (for a year) to see if a wind turbine makes sense. That will probably take a year of studying that data to determine this, because turbines are expensive. If the payback isn’t as fast as solar, for example, we would stick with solar power,” he said.

The plan is to install an anemometer on a hill behind the trades and technology building. Gusjonson said the area TRU has in mind for this research has steady access to wind and is not obstructed by buildings. “We want to measure the wind speed during all four seasons. You don’t want too much wind, but you want a steady wind to keep it spinning.”

Increasing sustainability is currently one of TRU’s five strategic priorities. In addition to reducing energy use by 25 per cent for 2017, Gudjonson said TRU has a 2022 target to reduce energy consumption by 33 per cent.