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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2011-04-15 11:25:00
  • Article ID: 575757

Like Superman, American University Will Get Its Energy from the Sun

  • Credit: Jeff Watts

    Two solar projects at American University, with more than 2,300 solar panels, create the largest use of solar technology in the District of Columbia.

Contact: Maralee Csellar, AU Communications, 202-885-5952 or csellar@american.edu

With a mandate for renewable energy in the District of Columbia in place, and a commitment to become carbon neutral by 2020, American University is installing one of the largest solar electricity systems in Washington, D.C. and the largest urban solar hot water system on the east coast.

More than 2,150 solar photovoltaic panels will be installed by July on six American University buildings resulting in the largest solar power system in the District of Columbia.

In addition, 174 solar thermal energy panels will be installed on four campus buildings by July, providing hot showers to more than 2,000 students living on campus and hot water to the university’s largest dining hall.

Combined these 2,300 solar panels create the largest use of solar technology in the Washington Metro area and showcase how AU is finding innovative ways to fight climate change.

“Not only is solar power the right thing to do, it will also reduce the university’s energy costs the day we flip the switches on the new systems, proving that solar can be clean and green,” says Chris O’Brien, director of sustainability at American University. “We are also working to explore other ways to develop even larger scale renewable energy sources in the Washington region, so stay tuned.”

Last spring, American University announced its plans to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions and become a carbon-neutral campus by 2020. AU is reducing energy consumption, using wind power for 100% of its purchased electricity, exploring large-scale renewable energy development in the DC area, and planning to mitigate university travel emissions by supporting carbon offset projects this year. Plans are underway to create renewable energy on campus by installing a wind turbine, designed by an AU professor, to be placed atop a parking garage, and will install a generator that runs on used cooking oil from the campus dining hall.

Electricity from the solar photovoltaic panels will avoid more than 557 tons of carbon per year, the equivalent of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from 57,500 gallons of gasoline annually, or nearly 1 million gallons over twenty years.

The new solar photovoltaic power system dramatically expands the university’s existing 27 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system installed on the LEED Gold certified School of International Service building. The new arrays will be installed and operating on three additional buildings on the AU campus—Katzen Arts Center, Mary Graydon Center, Bender Library—and three off-campus buildings—Washington College of Law, 3201 New Mexico Avenue and 4200 Wisconsin Avenue. The 505 kilowatt system will be installed by Standard Solar Inc. of Rockville, Md. and owned and operated by Washington Gas Energy Services Inc. Combined, AU will have more than 532 kilowatts of solar PV producing about 637 megawatt hours of electricity each year.

The solar thermal system converts sunlight into thermal energy, which is sent to a tank to provide solar heated water for showers and use by the AU community. The system will pump out 5,700,000 BTUs a day—609 megawatt hours of energy annually—equivalent to the amount of energy required to produce 20,795 cheeseburgers every year. According to the EPA, this solar hot water project is the largest in any city on the east coast. Skyline Innovations, a Washington, D.C.-based solar energy company, is providing the system.

As a result of a combination of federal and local incentives, these solar installations will actually reduce American University’s energy bills as soon as the systems are in operation. The projects are financed through power purchase agreements with Washington Gas Energy Services and Skyline Innovations, each of which owns and installs its respective system, and sells the resulting energy to American University through long term contracts for twenty and ten years respectively.

American University will officially kick-off these solar projects as the grand finale of its week-long Green Campus-Green Community Earth Week Celebration April 18 through Earth Day on April 22. Each day features a different theme: Monday to Energy & Climate, Tuesday to Transportation, Wednesday to Food and Water, Thursday to Public Service, and Friday will feature an Earth Day festival including the solar groundbreaking ceremony led by AU President Neil Kerwin at 12:30 p.m. in the amphitheatre on campus.

AU’s sustainability programs are earning increased recognition. American University earned a STARS gold rating in January from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System developed by representatives from colleges and universities, higher education associations, related nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government agencies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) honored AU as one of the top colleges in its 2010–2011 College and University Green Power Challenge and Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges also included AU.

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Rutgers Scientists Discover 'Legos of Life'

Rutgers scientists have found the "Legos of life" - four core chemical structures that can be stacked together to build the myriad proteins inside every organism - after smashing and dissecting nearly 10,000 proteins to understand their component parts. The four building blocks make energy available for humans and all other living organisms, according to a study published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Small Hydroelectric Dams Increase Globally with Little Research, Regulations

University of Washington researchers have published the first major assessment of small hydropower dams around the world -- including their potential for growth -- and highlight the incredibly variability in how dams of varying sizes are categorized, regulated and studied.

Researchers Reveal How Microbes Cope in Phosphorus-Deficient Tropical Soil

A team led by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has uncovered how certain soil microbes cope in a phosphorus-poor environment to survive in a tropical ecosystem. Their novel approach could be applied in other ecosystems to study various nutrient limitations and inform agriculture and terrestrial biosphere modeling.

Scientists Discover Material Ideal for Smart Photovoltaic Windows

Researchers at Berkeley Lab discovered that a form of perovskite, one of the hottest materials in solar research due to its high conversion efficiency, works surprisingly well as a stable and photoactive semiconductor material that can be reversibly switched between a transparent state and a non-transparent state, without degrading its electronic properties.

Biofuels Feedstock Study Supports Billion-Ton Estimate

Can farmers produce at least 1 billion tons of biomass per year that can be used as biofuels feedstock? The answer is yes.

On the Rebound

New research from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and Stanford University has found that palladium nanoparticles can repair atomic dislocations in their crystal structure, potentially leading to other advances in material science.

Coupling Experiments to Theory to Build a Better Battery

A Berkeley Lab-led team of researchers has reported that a new lithium-sulfur battery component allows a doubling in capacity compared to a conventional lithium-sulfur battery, even after more than 100 charge cycles.

DRIFTing to Fast, Precise Data

Non-destructive technique identifies key variations in Alaskan soils, quickly providing insights into carbon levels.

A Shortcut to Modeling Sickle Cell Disease

Using Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Titan supercomputer, a team led by Brown University's George Karniadakis devised a multiscale model of sickle cell disease that captures what happens inside a red blood cell affected by the disease.

Remotely Predicting Leaf Age in Tropical Forests

New approach offers data across species, sites, and canopies, providing insights into carbon uptake by forests.


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Theoretical Physicist Elena Belova Named to Editorial Board of Physics of Plasmas

Theoretical physicist Elena Belova named to editorial board of Physics of Plasmas

Superconducting X-Ray Laser Takes Shape in Silicon Valley

An area known for high-tech gadgets and innovation will soon be home to an advanced superconducting X-ray laser that stretches 3 miles in length, built by a collaboration of national laboratories. On January 19, the first section of the machine's new accelerator arrived by truck at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park after a cross-country journey that began in Batavia, Illinois, at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Kelsey Stoerzinger Earns Young Investigator Lectureship

Kelsey Stoerzinger, Pauling Fellow at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, is one of the 2018 Caltech Young Investigator Lecturers in Engineering and Applied Physics.

North Dakota State University Joins Two National Distributed Computing Groups

The NDSU Center for Computationally Assisted Science and Technology (CCAST) joins OSG (Open Science Grid) and XSEDE (Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment).

DOE Announces Funding for New HPC4Manufacturing Industry Projects

The Department of Energy's Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) today announced the funding of $1.87 million for seven new industry projects under an ongoing initiative designed to utilize DOE's high-performance computing (HPC) resources and expertise to advance U.S. manufacturing and clean energy technologies.

DOE Announces First Awardees for New HPC4Materials for Severe Environments Program

The Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy (FE) today announced the funding of $450,000 for the first two private-public partnerships under a brand-new initiative aimed at discovering, designing and scaling up production of novel materials for severe environments.

Two Argonne Scientists Recognized for a Decade of Breakthroughs

Two scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have been named to the Web of Science's Highly Cited List of 2017, ranking in the top 1 percent of their peers by citations and subject area. Materials Scientist Khalil Amine and Energy and Environmental Policy Scientist David Streets say they are thrilled to see their work -- and the laboratory -- recognized in such a way.

Argonne Welcomes Department of Energy Secretary Perry

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry visited Argonne National Laboratory yesterday, getting a first-hand view of the multifaceted and interdisciplinary research program laboratory of the Department.

Argonne names John Quintana Deputy Laboratory Director for Operations and COO

John Quintana has been named Deputy Laboratory Director for Operations and Chief Operations Officer (COO) of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.

Developing Next-Generation Sensing Technologies

Recently, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced $20 million in funding for 15 projects that will develop a new class of sensor systems to enable significant energy savings via reduced demand for heating and cooling in residential and commercial buildings.


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Exploring Past, Present, and Future Water Availability Regionally, Globally

New open-source software simulates river and runoff resources.

Arctic Photosynthetic Capacity and Carbon Dioxide Assimilation Underestimated by Terrestrial Biosphere Models

New measurements offer data vital to projecting plant response to environmental changes.

DRIFTing to Fast, Precise Data

Non-destructive technique identifies key variations in Alaskan soils, quickly providing insights into carbon levels.

Superconducting Tokamaks Are Standing Tall

Plasma physicists significantly improve the vertical stability of a Korean fusion device.

Graphene Flexes Its Muscle

Crumpling reduces rigidity in an otherwise stiff material, making it less prone to catastrophic failure.

Remotely Predicting Leaf Age in Tropical Forests

New approach offers data across species, sites, and canopies, providing insights into carbon uptake by forests.

What's the Noise Eating Quantum Bits?

The magnetic noise caused by adsorbed oxygen molecules is "eating at" the phase stability of quantum bits, mitigating the noise is vital for future quantum computers.

Rewritable Wires Could Mean No More Obsolete Circuitry

An electric field switches the conductivity on and off in atomic-scale channels, which could allow for upgrades at will.

Filtering Water Better than Nature

Water passes through human-made straws faster than the "gold standard" protein, allowing us to filter seawater.

Machine Learning Provides a Bridge to the Texture of the Quantum World

Machine learning and neural networks are the foundation of artificial intelligence and image recognition, but now they offer a bridge to see and recognize exotic insulating phases in quantum materials.


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