Lake Norman & Mooresville

Davidson College goes solar this week

After several weeks of installation, Davidson College's solar panel project is expected to begin operations this week, said college spokesman Bill Giduz.

The two-part project is expected to save the college about $25,000 a year in energy expenses, although project supervisor John Christian said he was reluctant to put an exact dollar figure on the savings.

"Solar energy is dependent on the weather and the sun," he said. "It's difficult to anticipate savings, not knowing what the weather is going to be."

In one part of the project, solar thermal collector panels will use glycol to heat Cannon Pool, as well as the showers in the Knoblock Tennis Center. In the other part, 378 panels will generate and supply electricity to the Baker Sports Complex.

Southern Energy Management of Morrisville installed the solar energy technology over the last several weeks. The project was originally slated to be complete by Dec. 31.

Under the photovoltaic system, the panels take in photons from sunlight and release electrons to create electricity. When it is cloudy for an extended period, the system will use its conventional electric system.

The project will cover 75 percent of the sport complex's roof as well as a percentage of the pool's roof. A state grant, the Duke Endowment and Davidson College helped fund the project, which cost $600,000.

Christian said the college plans to use the panels to teach students majoring in environmental studies. "By having a solar system on campus, it's an opportunity to give students hands-on, up-close knowledge of the operation of a solar energy system," said Christian.

Christian said the college is leading by example in becoming a more environmentally-friendly community.

"It's just the right thing to do," he said. "It's the direction that we as a world community need to seek."