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Sun Power

Additional solar panels cut costs, emissions

“Let the sun shine in.” That’s the mantra at Bridgewater State University, as a new solar array helps the university go green and save some “green.”

The approximately 3,400-panel system under construction in Tower Lot will feed clean, renewable electricity to the grid and reduce BSU’s overall electricity bill. It is estimated to lower greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 238 cars off the road.

“The more of these projects we put up on campus, the better we are to position ourselves to be a green campus as well as generating cost savings for the university in the long run,” said Chris Drowne, project manager in the Department of Capital Planning.

BSU is partnering with California-based ForeFront Power. The two organizations will share the financial benefits. There is no cost to BSU for the installation.

Bridgewater already has panels atop the Crimson residence hall, but this is the first array above a parking lot. Tower Lot, which is located off Great Hill Drive and used by residential students, is ideal because panels can face south-southwest to best capture the sun’s energy.

The panels are high enough so fire trucks and snow plows can access the lot. And, the area will still be protected by video cameras and contain blue light emergency telephones. Students’ cars will even be sheltered from the elements.

The project is also an on-campus lab for Larry Harman and Dr. Uma Shama, co-directors of BSU’s GeoGraphics Laboratory, who use drones to take regular photos of the construction. Once a system is operating, drones equipped with thermal infrared sensors will detect deficient panels, notifying technicians of any problems, Harman explained.

With help from student research associates Jesse Scopa and Drew Sullivan, the staff of the lab flew a drone over a non-BSU array in Bridgewater and discovered broken panels. The system atop Crimson Hall, by contrast, was in perfect condition.

“What we’re trying to do is train students, so they can get their pilot’s license and help (technicians) do a good job,” Harman said. “I think this is something that’s a real opportunity for our students.”

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