Installation begins on Ivory Tower solar thermal panels

Installation of solar thermal panels on the rooftop of Ivory Tower began Tuesday, bringing to near-completion the University’s plan to use renewable energy in the water heating systems of three residence halls.

By supplementing the residence halls’ current water heating system with solar thermal technology, the University is taking steps to become a carbon-neutral institution by 2040 – a goal outlined in GW’s Climate Action Plan in 2010. The University hopes to use low-carbon technologies to produce 10 percent of its energy by 2040.

Solar thermal panels were also installed on the rooftops of Building JJ and 1959 E Street in March and June, respectively. The University originally said all three systems would be installed before the end of the 2010-2011 academic year. Sophie Waskow, the Office of Sustainability projects facilitator, said that permitting and site-prep delays slowed the project but it was not a “cause for concern.”

The University will become the largest source of on-site solar power in D.C. and the sixth-largest commercial system in the country once the Ivory Tower solar thermal panels are installed, Waskow said.

“As the market for solar thermal increases, and we hope it does, we expect that others will exceed our capacity in the near future,” Waskow said. “This should be viewed as a sign of progress as other institutions follow GW’s lead and begin using their rooftops to provide heating for hot water.”

Waskow said that the solar thermal panels will help reduce 78 tons of carbon annually, which is “the equivalent of eliminating 180,000 passenger car miles driven every year or planting 30 acres of trees.”

The solar thermal panels will produce about 35 percent of the hot water that Ivory Tower residents use, Waskow said. Building JJ and 1959 E Street will use the solar thermal panels to produce 65 percent of its hot water. The current natural gas system will produce the rest of the hot water for the three residence halls.

Skyline Innovations, a D.C.-based company, has financed and installed the solar thermal systems in all three residence halls. The University will pay the company for the hot water that the system produces.



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