Clarion University Enters the Solar Age

As volatile oil prices ping-pong with the weather and natural gas prices shoot up over 30 percent with North America’s dwindling supplies, Clarion University is looking beyond fossil-fuels to clean renewable energy from the sun to power its new hi-tech teaching facility.

The Department of Environmental Protection awarded Clarion a $212,000 Energy Harvest Grant to construct a sustainable building-integrated solar photovoltaic array into the roof of Clarion University’s new Science and Technology Center. Final design for the new Science and Technology Center is expected in March or April 2006, with construction projected to begin in September or October 2006, followed by 18 to 24 months of construction. Occupancy of the building is projected for June of 2008. The flexible peel-and-stick thin-film solar cells destined for the project will generate approximately 35,000 kWh/year of renewable solar electricity. Each year, by offsetting coal-fired electricity the solar array will mitigate over 14 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from enhancing climate change, prevent 14 tons of coal form being burned, and prevent the use of 22,000 gallons of water (in the coal plant) from being wasted. The project will provide a focal point for faculty interested in environmental problems/solutions and for the new minor in Sustainability: Science and Policy. Nineteen credits are required to earn the minor. The requirements include an introductory course in physics of energy and the environment, two elective courses in sustainable science, two elective courses in sustainable policy, at least one credit of research in either sustainable science or policy, and a capstone seminar on environment and society in the senior year. “This project will not only reduce air and water pollution but will also be a highly visible proof of the technical viability of solar photovoltaic electricity in Pennsylvania,” said Joshua Pearce, an assistant professor of physics who researches solar energy. “In addition, through the transparent read-out and attention to environmental stewardship, the building will allow all students to contemplate the environmental aspects and impacts of their work.” The solar photovoltaic array will be monitored in real-time and the data made available to the public in an information kiosk and solar energy exhibit in the grand entryway of the building. Priced at $27.2 million, this building constitutes the most ambitious project of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, according to the school. “The younger and more educated a population is the more they support the environment and renewable energy. We believe that having a solar-powered science and technology building is not only good for the environment, but also for attracting the brightest students,” said Sharon Montgomery, physics department chair. For Clarion University’s Sustainability: Science and Policy minor, use the following link.
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