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Community College Sets New Standard with Solar Thermal Energy

Community College Sets New Standard with Solar Thermal EnergyThe creative arts building design at Haywood Community College in North Carolina is one of the first public buildings in the state to be built under a new state law requiring enhanced energy performance. As such, the project architect is predicting it will generate a lot of interest.

“The state construction and state energy offices are really interested in this project, so I think this will be a model,” said Masaki Furukawa, an architect with Raleigh-based Innovative Design. Energy efficiency milestones will be reached in the new college building by using a combination of green technologies that aren’t common in the United States. While a technology called solar thermal has been on the market since the 1970s, it has not been widely used for cooling, particularly using an absorption chiller “because it is a little bit complicated,” Furukawa said. “I’d say there are about 20 some installations in the U.S., more in Europe.”

The HCC building plan relies on both solar photovoltaic panels (PV) and solar thermal panels to heat and cool the building, provide electricity for lights and machines and heat the hot water. Solar thermal panels can convert about 50 percent of the sun’s energy for use, while the photovoltaic panels can only use about 19 percent maximum of the energy available from the sun, Furukawa said.

While a new state law requires public buildings to be 30 percent more energy efficient than code and 20 percent below code for water usage, the HCC project is expected to exceed those rates. Energy efficiency in the building should be 50 to 60 percent lower than code requirements, Furukawa said, and water usage should be three times more efficient than required.

Solar thermal panels will be used to heat domestic hot water, as well as the fluid that runs through piping to provide radiant floor heat and cooling through the use of an absorption chiller. The photovoltaic panels will provide the electricity needed to operate the lighting system and any computers or machines that require power.

While solar technology, particularly photovoltaic systems, is one of the most expensive alternative energy forms, if all goes as planned, the system will be paid for through a public/private partnership with solar developers.

Source-istockanalyst and the Mountaineer (Vicki Hyatt)

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