University of Vermont

Students on the Lawn

Developing Draft Solar Reports and Exploring new Technologies

by Ryan Darlow '12, UVM Clean Energy Fund Intern

 

Over the last two weeks my primary task has been completing the draft solar reports for the PV feasibility study. Most of the sites that have potential for PV have been surveyed, so now the focus has shifted to writing up reports to determine the locations for which PV is best suited.  Part of these reports includes a summary of the approximate cost for installation and subsequent payback period. In order to properly calculate the payback I had to research all the applicable incentives. These specifications included in these reports are based on the results of an excel spreadsheet which is designed to calculate the power output, and payback period based on an input of available roof space, PV incentives, and system pricing. Smaller projects will require a smaller initial capital investment but will have longer payback periods when compared to larger projects. However there are some buildings such as the athletic complex which have potential for massive PV installations that could make a serious impact in the electric expenses of that building.

This past week we began to explore other types of renewable installations that could be applied on campus. Geothermal installations require open space adjacent to existing buildings so that wells can be drilled. Buildings need at least 10,000 square feet (sq ft) of open land adjacent to them in order to be suitable for geothermal. This land should be mostly grass, but it can contain sidewalks or parking lot area that can be temporarily removed. I created a map that outlined locations that I had at least 10,000 square feet of space adjacent to buildings. This map was compared with a list of buildings on campus that are not on the central heating system. If a location met both of these criteria then it is possible it is a location that is suitable for geothermal. This past Wednesday Jack, Rich, Jack and I went out and surveyed the land that fell under this category. The sketches we created will be compared with campus maps, geological surveys, and the existing heating systems to make create the geothermal feasibility study. At this point it appears that the parts of campus that are best suited for geothermal are the residence halls on Trinity Campus.  

At the end of this week I also began research on small scale and building mounted wind power options that could be applied to campus. It is unlikely that the university wants to become a power producer so a commercial scale wind turbine (1.5-7 MW) does not seem appropriate for campus. There are some smaller commercial systems such as the 100 kW unit called Northern Power 100. They require an area with no buildings that is as large as they are tall, and circles that are 350 ft in diameter without any existing structures are hard to find on campus.  A few locations in the Bio Research Complex, Miller Research Complex, and Centennial Woods, are being considered, however it is likely their close proximity to residential areas and trees will also make them poorly suited for wind power. The last option for wind power is small scale systems or building mounted systems. I am currently researching various existing horizontal and vertical axis turbine systems. Additionally CHA will be creating wind maps for two areas of campus which will allow for a better assessment of locations suitable for these technologies. The location with the best wind will aid in determining which of the various types of small scale wind turbines is best suited for campus.

I have enjoyed the process of surveying and creating the draft PV reports. I learned a lot about the feasibility of PV and can now rapidly assess a roof to determine if it has good potential or not. I have become more proficient at using excel and manipulating data. I learned how a cash flow diagram works, how to read them and how to develop them. It is exciting to see how certain buildings, such as Farrell hall, have great PV potential as expected, whereas others, such as the Davis Center, are not ideal. It is also interesting to learn about how geothermal technology works, and where it can be applied. Learning the various methods for analysis of whether or not a location is suitable for renewable energy is very beneficial for me as I pursue a career in energy.