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The Solar Energy Picture at SSU


Solar powered energy is both the focus of energy savings on the SSU campus as well as a subject for exciting student research projects. Here is an overview of the solar picture on campus:

Salazar solar arrayFormer campus engineer Keith Marchando on the roof of Salazar Hall which has one of the largest solar arrays in Sonoma County.

Ruben Salazar Hall

The remodel of Salazar Hall made the former university library one of the most energy efficient public buildings in northern California with one of the largest solar panel grids in the region covering 9,500 square feet with 1200 panels. In 2001-02, the 116,186 square feet Salazar Hall underwent a major renovation of the 35-year old building which included incorporating the rooftop 76KW photovoltaic (PV) electric system that works in tandem with the facilities cooling system: highly efficient evaporative cooling and outdoor air economizers minimize the energy needed to cool the building, while the PV system generates enough energy to meet the building's entire cooling load, even on the hottest summer days. By avoiding the purchase of fossil fuel-generated electricity, this solar powered system spares the environment from thousands of tons of harmful emissions such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide. Over the 25-year life of the system, it is estimated that these emissions reductions are equivalent to planting 24 acres of trees or removing 400 cars from California highways. Energy User News honored the former campus library remodeling project at its 2003 Energy Efficient Building Awards ceremony held recently during the World Energy Engineering Congress of the Association of Energy Engineers. The project also won the 2003 Technology Award for Institutional Buildings from both the local and regional American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

Student Recreation Center

Pam su with solar panelsIncorporating sustainable design and other environmentally-friendly concepts into the 53,442 square foot Student Recreation Center (opened 2004) was a key goal from the beginning. The integrated design team used LEED as an education, planning, and design tool to provide many of the successful green building aspects. The forward-thinking group not only wanted to achieve sustainability in the design, construction, and operation of the Rec Center, but also wanted to provide a model and educational tool to raise awareness for everyday green practices. In the summer of 2007, the Recreation Center building finished construction with a Phase I installment of 48 kilowatts of solar panels on the Everest Gym roof. Rebates from the California Public Utilities helped offset about one third of the total cost. There is room for a Phase II installment of approximately 70 kw once monies have been identified.

Above, Recreational Sports Coordinator Pam Su at solar panel installation on roof of the facility.

Environmental Technology Center

Environmental Technology CenterThe Environmental Technology Center (ETC) incorporates a wide range of sustainable building techniques and design features that minimize energy use, consuming less than 50% of the energy allowed by state code for similar buildings. The “Green Building” features include: passive solar heating and cooling, daylighting, advanced window systems, “smart building” control technologies, photovoltaics, and energy and water-efficient landscaping. The roof is made up of galvanized recycled steel with “peel and stick” roof-integrated photo-voltaic modules of thin-film silicon that provides up to 3000 watts of solar electricity.


Galbreath Wildlands Preserve

Galbreath solar stationSince the Galbreath Wildlands Preserve is located in an isolated and remote part of Mendocino County without electrical power, solar panels are used to obtain power and charge a small bank of batteries for the operation of a data collection site that will eventually lead to the creation of an astronomical observatory. A Site Survey Solar Unit (right) consists of two solar panels and a charge controller which charges a bank of six 160 amp-hour deep-cycle marine batteries.

The instruments are installed on a south-facing hill just below the high point along Observatory Ridge. The necessary data being collected includes cloud cover, temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, and barometric pressure.

Instrumentation consists of a Davis weather station, a Boltwood cloud sensor, and an SBIG seeing monitor to record atmospheric stability. The weather station has on-board memory which can store approximately 90 days of data at a time. This data is manually downloaded to a computer when the instrumentation is visited by staff. Weather data and cloud data are recorded every 30 minutes. Seeing data is recorded approximately every minute.

Above, Professor Scott Severson at Galbreath's Site Survey Solar Unit.

Fairfield Osborn Preserve

solar array at Fairfield OsbornA 32-panel solar array supplies all the power to operate The Marjory Osborn Education & Research Center (2,100 sq ft) which has two meeting rooms that are available for educational and research use, conferences and meetings at the 411-acre Fairfield Osborn Preserve in the hills above the SSU campus.



Monitoring Solar Power at Fairfield Osborn

solar monitoringThe Solar Power Monitoring System project for SSU’s Fairfield Osborn Preserve project was a collaborative project between the SSU Field Stations & Nature Preserves and senior thesis students in the Department of Engineering. The aim of this project was to design and implement a low-cost real-time power monitoring system to remotely monitor and record status of solar power components and the backup generator. The Solar Power Monitoring System project not only serves as the basis for evaluating system maintenance needs, and capacity planning but also is used as an educational tool for Preserve visitors to learn about energy use (in watt/hour) of typical household appliances The project was implemented by Marcos Almonaci, Bill Collins, and Jason Ghiraldini, as their senior design project under the supervision of Dr. Farid Farahmand in Department of Engineering Science, with Claudia Luke, Director of SSU Field Stations & Nature Preserves serving as the “client.”In addition to gaining real-life engineering experience, the engineering students participated in a community-based multidisciplinary activity, utilizing their engineering skills for meeting the needs of the community. The system is offered as a model for energy-efficient power monitoring in rural and remote sites.

Above, Marcos Almonaci, Bill Collins, and Jason Ghiraldini at solar monitoring station. (Photo by Shahram Marivani)

last updated: 08.30.2010