Two solar photovoltaic arrays with a total capacity of 444 kilowatts on the Washington and Lee University campus met their performance goals for the first six months of 2012.
The first solar array, with a capacity of 119 kilowatts, operates on a canopy over the upper deck of the University's parking structure. Lewis Hall, home of the Washington and Lee School of Law, hosts the second array, a rooftop installation with a capacity of 325 kilowatts. Both systems began operations in December 2011. The University is leasing the solar-energy system from Secure Futures, a solar energy development company based in Staunton, Va.
"The overall performance of the arrays has met our expectations," said Scott Beebe, director of energy initiatives at Washington and Lee. "The system runs each day without any special attention on our part. I have been very pleased with the performance."
System-performance ratio for the period was 99 percent of expected performance measured at the site of each array. Mild temperatures boosted performance in both systems during the winter and spring, and slightly dampened performance during June, when temperatures were higher than average near the end of the month..
The University’s goal has been to have the solar power reduce the amount of electricity that it purchases from Dominion Power by 3 percent annually, said Beebe, and the current level of performance should meet that goal.
“Solar-energy operators project performance of a system based on how much sun they expect to shine on the geographical area where the system is installed. Many people may not realize that solar irradiance actually varies from one year to the next, based on local weather,” said Anthony Smith, CEO of Secure Futures. “Given the amount of sun that the solar panels at Washington and Lee received during the first six months of 2012, the system has performed exceedingly well thus far.”
The Lexington area received lower-than-projected sunshine during the period, resulting in 7 percent lower irradiance than projected at both systems. The reduction in sunshine is likely due to the occasional presence of mountain-effect weather and river fog specific to Lexington.
Combined, the two solar arrays on campus represent one of the most powerful solar-energy systems in the state of Virginia and one of the largest photovoltaic systems installed at a private institution of higher education anywhere in the United States. Solar energy is one component of the University's program to save energy and promote sustainability. Other areas include composting, using local and organic foods, purchasing, transportation and the management of physical plant. In addition, departments ranging from the University store to printing and copying services have committed to using fewer resources and generating less waste.
Jeffery G. Hanna
Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs
Washington and Lee University
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