Bard College Shines
With its park-like campus location overlooking the Hudson River and Catskills Mountains in New York’s Hudson Valley, it’s no wonder that Bard College is committed to being green.
Students living in this residence hall at Bard College get most all of their hot water from the sun, thanks to a solar thermal system installed by EarthKind Solar with ARRA funding.
At the liberal arts college in Annandale-on-Hudson, students learn and live in 25 geothermal buildings on campus that don’t burn fossil fuels on site. Instead of driving to class, they walk, take shuttles or even can borrow electric bikes. When their old light bulbs blow out, they trade them in for compact fluorescent light bulbs supplied by the college, which has given out more than 1,000 of the more efficient bulbs.
The newest innovation -- solar thermal panels for hot water at two residence halls -- is the latest example of the college’s forward-thinking efficient and ecological initiatives as well as being an energy- and cost-saver.
The solar thermal project is part of Bard’s ongoing green initiatives and another step toward meeting the goals in the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment pledge signed by college president Leon Botstein in 2008.
Stimulus Funding for Solar
The solar thermal system uses radiation from the sun to generate heat for hot water for about 100 students living in the two dorms – Tremblay and Keen -- for showers, washing their hands and dishes, and other uses.
Bard received grant funding for the $112,000 project under New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)’s administration of the State Energy Program funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The grant covered 90 percent of the costs for the solar systems at the two residential halls as well as advanced monitoring at one building.
“Students love the endless hot water and pride themselves on being green,” said Laurie Husted, the college’s sustainability coordinator. “It also teaches the students, staff, prospective students and other visitors about Bard’s environmental focus and how they can participate.”
The system was designed and installed by EarthKind Solar in January with no interruption to student services. At Tremblay Hall, eight collectors were installed on the roof while 11 collectors comprise the system in Keen Hall EarthKind -- a leading provider of fuel-free solar electric, solar heat and solar hot water -- has advised and designed solar projects for schools, governments, municipalities/government and companies throughout the state.
Silver Star Rating
An early adopter of renewable energy technologies in its building construction since the mid-1990s, Bard has been recognized as a sustainability leader among colleges in the state and country, having recently earned a silver STAR (Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System) rating from AASHE.
In achieving the rating using the STAR transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance, Bard was recognized for the innovative enhanced monitoring and verification installed on the solar thermal system at Tremblay Hall.
The data now being collected using this enhanced solar thermal monitoring system from the solar water heating system is giving a real look at how solar thermal technologies work in this region of the country.
And the results from the system that provides extensive data every 10 minutes, show the real value – in both cost savings and to the environment – of solar thermal systems.
“It is exciting both operationally and academically,” said Husted. “We have faculty that are taking hold of the data for use in the classroom and research.”
Since installing the roof-top solar collectors at the start of the 2011, Bard expects to save about $10,000 annually at Tremblay, plus the additional savings at Keen. Monitoring shows that the systems are working according to expectations. The Tremblay hot water consumption is almost covered with 85 percent of the energy supplied by solar.
Rising in popularity, solar thermal systems are as much as 80 percent less expensive than photovoltaics (PV or solar electric) systems that use solar radiation to directly generate electricity.
Solar thermal systems work by using the sun to heat a fluid running through the solar collectors and then circulate it to the storage tank. Internal heat exchangers inside the tank transfer the heat absorbed by the collector to the water in the tank. This pre-heated water is then stored for future use.
“Solar thermal is playing an important role in helping Bard reduce is carbon footprint and lower our reliance on fossil fuels,” Husted said.
Bard College received this award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s State Energy Program. The State Energy Program provides grants to states and directs funding to State Energy Offices from technology programs in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. States use grants to address their energy priorities and to adopt emerging renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. SEP is distributing $3.1 billion of funding to the states and U.S. territories under the 2009 Recovery Act.
Green Seniors Go Solar at Hawthorne Ridge Retirement Community
Mike Evans, facility manager for Hawthorne Ridge and Northeast Health, worked with the Going Green committee of environmentally-minded seniors to get solar thermal hot water for the independent living retirement community. Hawthorne Ridge is the first Northeast Health affiliate to go solar.
Joan Taylor has always cared about doing her part to conserve the earth’s resources. She can be called a ‘green senior,’ one of thousands of elderly and retired people around the world who have an active interest in environmental issues.
“I recycled before it was popular,” says the 78-year-old, crediting it to her Scottish heritage.
So it’s not surprising that the driving force behind a new solar thermal project at Hawthorne Ridge in East Greenbush, NY was driven by a group of green grandmas -- and one granddad.
Taylor and about six other residents on the “Going Green” committee at the 50-unit independent retirement community in the Capital District worked with facility manager Mike Evans to successfully get the solar hot water project going.
“Our residents are highly into being green,” says Evans. “We’re seeing more and more of the older generation in the mode of conserving because they know how the economy is and came out of the era of Roosevelt and the Depression.”
The Going Green committee also has embarked on recycling, lighting, food service, community gardening, and other energy management and conservation projects at the community. So when Evans suggested solar about two years ago, the committee immediately endorsed the idea.
“We want to reduce our carbon footprint, our energy costs and our reliance on foreign oil,” he says.
Alternative Energy Leaders
With the unveiling of the project this summer, Hawthorne Ridge became the first affiliate of Northeast Health, the Albany-area health system parent company, to go solar.
“It’s all about providing excellent customer service and helping our residents here,” Evan says. “We’re pleased to be leaders in alternative energy and hope to see other facility managers in our company follow suit.”
Evans, facility manager for Hawthorne Ridge and Northeast Health, worked with the Kingston-based solar provider, EarthKind Energy, to get federal funding for the $100,000 project.
Hawthorne Ridge received grant funding of $75,000 under New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) administration of the State Energy Program funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
Designed and installed by EarthKind, the solar thermal system is integrated into the existing hot water system providing 65 percent of the hot water usage. It includes 30 solar collectors on a pitched roof in the main building that capture the sun’s energy to preheat water in two hot water tanks so less natural gas is needed to do the job.
The sun-heated water is used for showers, washing hands and dishes at a 113,000-square-foot common building used by the independent living, assisted living and memory care units on the complex.
EarthKind -- a leading provider of fuel-free solar electric, solar heat and solar hot water -- has advised and designed solar projects for schools, governments, municipalities/government and companies throughout the state.
Although it’s only been running for a short time, Evans has already noticed a cost savings on the facility’s gas bill that will eventually translate to lower costs for the residents. EarthKind is performing Internet-based monitoring to track the savings.
“We’re expecting it to be a huge success,” he says. “It’s a very robust system and runs beautifully. The residents didn’t even realize it was running. There’s no noise or interference. It’s silent behind the scenes.”
While most residents at this 14-acre park-like setting might not realize that the sun is heating their water, Taylor, who also supports wind power and can’t be convinced of any merits to nuclear, knows she is indeed doing her small part to get off the grid.
“I’m probably the most excited person here,” she says. “Every bit helps.”
Hawthorne Ridge received this award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) State Energy Program (SEP). The State Energy Program provides grants to states and directs funding to State Energy Offices from technology programs in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. States use grants to address their energy priorities and to adopt emerging renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. SEP is distributing $3.1 billion to the states and U.S. territories under the 2009 Recovery Act.
About the Author: Gerhard Klier is Engineering Manager at EarthKind Solar in Kingston, NY and the system designer and integrator for the Bard College solar thermal project. He is an expert on the European and U.S. solar thermal and PV markets and is a professor and lecturer for renewable energies at SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Ulster in NY’s Hudson Valley.