Coleman Molnar– Editor-In-Chief
Solar panels installed on the roofs of three structures on Thompson Rivers University’s campus will heat 85 per cent of the domestic hot water for those buildings.
TRU was recently funded $263, 700 through a federal government program, National Resources Canada (NRCan), the Public Sector Energy Conservation Agreement (PSECA), and Terasen Gas to install solar panels on campus.
“These solar projects will be integrated with our previously announced energy retrofit program, bringing our energy refit total to $1.5 million,” said TRU’s Environmental Sustainability Director, Tom Owen, in a press release.
The panels were set up on Old Main, the Campus Activity Center, and the Culinary Arts building over the holiday break.
“It’s a reasonable payback because we have so many days of solar power here in Kamloops,” said James Gudjonson, TRU’s Energy Manager.
In April and May the panels will supply 85 per cent of domestic hot water, but will not provide much help in the winter months of December or January.
“Even in November and as early as February if the sun is out and the temperature is right, you’ll get enough energy to actually heat up water in those panels,” said Gudjonson.
“In the summer months we’ll probably have a surplus of hot water.”
Heating water with solar energy is not a complicated technology.
“It’s the exact same as in the summer when the garden hose is sitting out in the sun for an hour,“ said Gudjonson, “and for the first thirty seconds it’s really hot—that’s all it is.”
“That’s why the government is really keen on funding projects like this because they are just simple and make sense.
“That is how we should heat our water, instead of using gas.”
According to Gudjonson, B.C. Hydro funds about 30 per cent of the sustainable upgrades on campus.
The school has plans to refit many of the buildings with more energy efficient lighting systems as well as installing a solar air system—which functions under the same basic principle as solar water—in the science building.
“Overall we hope to save about 1.6 million kilowatt hours a year, [which] is the equivalent to having ten one hundred watt light bulbs on for 1.6 million hours,” said Gudjonson.
“So it’s a lot of energy. It’s basically about ten per cent of our electricity.”
The project also aims to salvage ten per cent of the gas consumption as well.
According to Gudjonson, the process of learning where all the energy goes on this campus is ongoing.
“It started with one gas meter and one electric meter for the entire campus,” said Gudjonson.
“So we’d get a bill and say ‘ok, but where did it go.’”
Currently there are meters in place in 14 of the bigger buildings on campus that Gudjonson can monitor from the computer in his office.
“From an energy management position this information is critical,” said Gudjonson.
“The system will actually send me an email when something is wrong and I can fix it right then and there.”
With improvements like water-bottle refill stations, a full recycling program, a carpool initiative, and now these new solar projects, TRU is making good progress toward its goal of becoming a sustainable campus.