Sporks

University Heights Revisited and Solar Thermal

by Jack Lehrecke '12, CEF Summer Intern

I have had a busy two weeks revisiting some areas of campus for photovoltaic reports as well as continuing my work with the Equine Center interviews. However, the majority of my time has been spent researching solar thermal technologies in preparation for our upcoming campus wide feasibility analysis with respect to that technology. Both the Equine Center installation and the campus wide feasibility study are progressing smoothly as we approach the half way mark of the project. I am content with both the development of my understanding of these renewable technologies as well as the overall deliverables produced thus far.


Solar Thermal Flat Plate Collectors (Source: RSP Solar (http://rspsolar.blogspot.com/)

Originally the University Heights Complex was thought to be limited due to the steep slope of the southern facing roofs but upon further inspection the majority of the facility is suitable for a solar array making it one of the more favorable locations on campus. I spent time surveying each of the four buildings and writing reports for proposed installations including panel location, orientation and overall cost projections. Given the large roof surface area offered by the complex combined with possible installations in the surrounding parking lots, the University Heights facilities could power a very substantial percentage of their total energy consumption through solar power.


University Heights and solar thermal possibilities mapped out.            

I have thoroughly enjoyed my research of solar thermal products as the technology is relatively foreign to me. I have absorbed a fair amount of information in the short time I have been investigating the various systems. Solar thermal refers to the recent technology that utilizes the sun’s rays to either store heat directly or generate power through a heat engine. For small-scale installations, solar collectors used to heat water for adjacent facilities are far more practical as solar thermal power projects require vast amounts of space to be efficient. There are multiple types of solar thermal collectors that can be used in small-scale installations including flat plate and evacuated tube collectors. 


Flat Plate- Evacuated tube comparison (Source: Solar Spectrum (http://askrod.com/2012/03/12/flat-plate-vs-evacuated-tube-which-is-the-winner/)

The efficiency of each respective collector is temperature dependent so the annual climate conditions of any given location are a key factor in proper product selection. Due to Vermont’s comparatively low annual temperatures, the flat plate collector systems are a much more practical product as they not only perform better in the cold than their evacuated tube counterparts, they are also generally more cost effective. I look forward to my continued research of various solar thermal options and applying that information to the feasibility study. One of the many advantages of the internship is the immediate use of recent research in a practical and professional setting.