GEO’s Solar Tour features many stops within Southeast Ohio
Posted by collegegreenou on October 5, 2009
College Green News Staff
Several area organizations had a unique opportunity to educate Southeast Ohio residents about sustainable energy over the weekend as featured sites in the Ohio Solar Tour, a yearly statewide exposé of alternative energy.
Wayne National Forest, Ohio University and tour sponsor American Electric Power were prominent features in the statewide event that spanned Oct. 3 and 4.
The tour is an annual event coordinated by the nonprofit group Green Energy Ohio in conjunction with the American Solar Energy Society’s National Solar Tour. Each year, the event gives people a chance to tour installations and learn about green energy sources such as solar and wind.
This year marked the first time OU has had a prime site for the tour. The university’s composting facility, located near The Ridges, was featured prominently during the tour’s events because of its large solar array.
The 10-kilowatt photovoltaic solar panels are a prominent feature of the site and might be capable of providing 60 percent of the energy needed to run the composting machinery and the facility’s on-site barn, OU Sustainability Coordinator Sonia Marcus said. OU will only know the solar array’s real capacity once the facility has been running for a year.
“The compost system certainly didn’t require a solar array, but the [university] has made a commitment to the Presidents’ Climate Commitment,” Marcus said.
The goal of the President’s Climate Commitment is to someday reach climate neutrality at OU.
In addition to the solar array, the pole-barn is fitted with a drainage system that collects rainwater for use in the composting process. Marcus said that the facility has not had to use any municipal water since the composter was completed in January.
Wayne National Forest, located only a few miles from Athens, also received attention during the tour for its recently completed expansion of the roof-mounted solar array used to partially power the forest’s welcome center. Wayne’s solar project is three years old but recent federal stimulus funding allowed the staff to install 252 panels this year in addition to the center’s original 50.
Guiding the tour of Wayne was Geoff Greenfield, president of Third Sun Solar and Wind Power, the company contracted to install the solar panels.
Greenfield debunked the myth that solar panels cannot produce enough power to make up for the energy needed to produce and install them. He said solar panels make up for their energy deficit in just two years.
Greenfield also explained how electricity produced by the panels goes directly to the power grid. If there is overflow, the power is “net metered,” or sent to the utility company in exchange for credit.
The panels provide an estimated 28 percent of the electricity for the building, but Wayne staff are still looking to increase overall energy efficiency.
“The national forest as a whole is trying to be a leader in conservation,” forest engineer Steve Marchi said.
American Electric Power, one of Southeast Ohio’s foremost electricity providers, was both a sponsor and a stop on the tour. The company’s Electric Utility Service Center is mounted with photovoltaic solar panels, which provide an estimated 80,139 kilowatts of power annually, according to Green Energy Ohio.
Also featured on the tour were several area residences. Homeowners allowed people to view, discuss and learn about the sort of green energy they could install at their own homes.