In the U.S. Colleges around the country are beginning to embrace sustainable practices such as energy conservation and distributed renewable energy. Modern solar hot water heating and cooling technologies offer potential for commercial and residential applications in a variety of climates. One such school that recently decided to take the plunge into solar hot water systems is A-B Tech.
A-B Tech has entered into an agreement with FLS Energy, Inc., to have 39 thermal collectors installed on four campus buildings to provide hot water heated by solar energy, with a potential savings of about $22,000, over the next 10 years. Funded by a U.S. Department of Energy appropriation from 2008 secured by U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, the College’s Global Institute for Sustainability Technology project will provide 1,885 gallons of hot water a day. The solar collector panels will be installed starting later in the spring and should be complete by the end of the year.
FLS Energy, a solar energy generation company based in Asheville, will own, maintain, and operate the solar thermal systems throughout the 10-year lease agreement. FLS Energy will then sell the energy used to heat the water back to the College at approximately one-half the current rate paid for natural gas. The total potential savings is about $22,000.
Bill Bondurant, project developer for FLS Energy, collaborated with members of A-B Tech’s leadership team, including Max Queen, vice president of Risk Management and Operations; Richard Mauney, executive vice president of Finance and Information Systems Technology and Vernon Daugherty, dean of Engineering and Applied Technology, to determine the College’s needs.
“It’s been a long process, but we have had lots of support. The bidding started in September of 2009 and our Board of Trustees approved the project in February,” Queen said.
An assessment found that the Magnolia Building, housing the culinary program, and the Birch Building, housing cosmetology programs, were the largest consumers of hot water. They will receive 26 and seven thermal collectors, respectively. Fernihurst, with its culinary kitchen, and Blue Ridge Food Ventures at the College’s Enka site, will also have solar panels installed.
“We have installed 30 large-scale solar energy systems across the state and I am pleased to see A-B Tech taking a leadership role in sustainability and environmental impact reduction,” Bondurant said.
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