Solar On Campus

The following profile of a solar energy system on campus is provided by Cansia, with help from Natural Resources Canada. The solar electricity system, installed at Federation Hall at the University of Waterloo, in the province of Ontario.

Since January 2004, Canada's first student-designed solar array on a university campus has been harvesting solar energy from an array of 36 photovoltaic (PV) solar modules to produce clean electricity at the University of Waterloo's Federation Hall. This initiative is part of the Solar Technology Education Project (STEP), a student-led volunteer team at the University.

The solar array is capable of generating electricity for at least 30 years and uses an electrical connection method known as "grid-tied." The electricity produced by the PV array is fed into Federation Hall's electrical panel. Surplus power is directed to the university's utility grid and used elsewhere on campus.

In addition to electricity production, the array will prevent more than 1,200 kg of carbon dioxide a year from polluting the air by avoiding the burning of fossil fuels. "We aimed to highlight the role of renewable energies and energy efficiency as powerful solutions to climate change," says Jeff DeLoyde, S.T.E.P. director and fourth-year environmental engineering student.

The S.T.E.P. project started in January 2002 and has since involved more than 75 volunteers and raised more than $40,000 from 22 sponsors including University of Waterloo groups and local businesses.

"A project of this magnitude cannot be done without the support of many people," says DeLoyde, noting that at least 150 people assisted with the project in some way, including volunteers, professors, UW staff, contractors, media, and others. "We're already talking about other solar projects on campus. Renewable energy projects on campus have gained momentum and many are eager for the start of STEP phase 2," he said.

This could include the largest PV array on a university in Canada (a target of 50 kW), a solar hot water system for UW's Physical Activity Centre (PAC), and a solar sculpture, involving a globe where the oceans are made up of PV, which moves when the sun is out. The team has also been approached to work on a new engineering building, and is exploring the possibility of including PV, solar hot water, green roofs, passive solar technology, as well as a solar tracking system. "STEP will continue with the education component using the Fed Hall solar array. We'll do seminars, workshops, and visiting local elementary schools to do presentations. We also plan to incorporate the array performance in an online, real-time monitoring system."

DeLoyde anticipates the team will seek to collaborate with new partners for large-scale projects. The team also plans to approach the federal and provincial governments for support for future projects. "We will continue to approach local and regional business sponsors to expand our sphere of impact," he said.

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