A Capstone Project: The Electron Garden on the Green (EGG)
(…) University would like to begin raising awareness of renewable energy and educating students and faculty on the importance of sustainable energy. (…) Facilities Management division has sought help in designing a project that will accomplish these goals. A 10 kW grid-tied PV system has been proposed that will be centrally located on campus. The system will serve as a living, learning laboratory for the campus community. The solar panels for the system will be mounted on three structures approximately 10 to 14 feet off the ground, which will also provide shade and shelter from the elements. Underneath the solar panels will be benches, tables, electrical outlets, and special hooks for students to hang hammocks. A small garden featuring native plant life will be planted around the solar panel structure. Small informational signage will be displayed throughout the garden informing visitors about the benefits of sustainable energy and how a PV system works.
As part of this effort, an engineering capstone project team was responsible for researching, designing, and proposing a PV system for (…). A shading analysis was first conducted in multiple locations on campus to determine where the most sunlight hours occurred. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s PVWatts1 Calculator was later utilized to estimate how much energy the system would generate per year and how much money the system would save the university. Greenhouse gas savings estimates were also calculated to determine the amount of reduction in CO2 emissions. (…)’s lead architect provided assistance with the structural design of the Electron Garden on the Green (EGG) project and estimation of construction costs. Since the university must use a third party to install the PV system, a local installer was contacted to gather a professional opinion. The proposal was later submitted to the (…) Sustainable Energy Initiative (SEI) Committee, which allocates funds for sustainable energy projects on campus. After a formal presentation by the engineering capstone team, the (…) SEI Committee has decided to move forward with the project.
The preliminary research involved gathering information on exactly how a PV system works. Further research revealed the necessity for Maximum Power Point Tracking in solar inverters. The engineering capstone team has investigated the benefits of oversizing a PV system with a 1.25 array-to-inverter ratio2. A vital part of this research involved emissions reduction calculations and payoff estimates. The emissions reduction calculations showed that the system would reduce CO2 emissions of the school by approximately five tons annually. Payoff of the system was calculated to be approximately 39.25 years. If the university were able to claim the 35 % (…) solar energy tax credits, the payoff would be reduced to approximately 12 years.
(…) is situated in a fantastic location for solar energy to thrive, which makes the EGG a realistic and highly-desirable project. The research by the capstone team determined that the best option for (…) to raise awareness and educate students about renewable energy is to implement a flagship project that would serve to accomplish these goals.
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