Patrick Ferrell ’20 and Jakob Spitzer ’20 each had an idea for their senior seminar project: What can Centre College do to expand solar energy options on campus?
Ferrell and Spitzer got in touch with Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities. Through that discussion, the two Centre seniors learned of the “Solar Share” program and made it a goal to get Centre involved.
“Over the course of the fall semester, we learned that to get an accurate picture of how much each building is suited for solar energy, we needed better access to electricity data than what we had,” Ferrell said.
The Solar Share program provided just that. Through a new 1,300 solar panel array in Bardstown, the companies can provide solar power to residents and businesses who opt in to the program.
From the College’s perspective, it was simple, Ferrell said. By joining the Solar Share program, LG&E and KU installed “smart meters” across campus that gave the electricity data that Ferrell and Spitzer were looking for. He said that the meters could send electricity usage every 15 minutes, all day every day.
“That enabled (us) to see historical data and do deeper analysis on our usage,” Ferrell said. “Wanting to get this information, we bought just one solar panel for each of our 15 highest usage buildings on campus. Now we have really good data to help us understand our usage patterns on buildings like Pearl Hall, Brockman Commons, the Norton Center for the Arts, etc. We are using this data to inform future solar projects.”
According to an LG&E and KU release, Centre College is the first educational institution involved in the Solar Share program. The program allows for LG&E and KU customers to provide solar energy, which in turn is added as a credit to customer’s accounts. It allows for the benefits of solar energy without “the up-front cost and long-term maintenance that come with installing a private solar system,” the release said.
The solar array in Bardstown is also touted as “pollinator-friendly” by LG&E and KU. It will be an area where bees, butterflies and other pollinators can thrive.
“We created the Solar Share program because our customers expressed an interest in supporting local renewables and their increasing participation shows not only is the interest still there, but it’s on the rise,” said Eileen Saunders, LG&E and KU vice president-Customer Services. “Kentucky Habitat for Humanity and Centre College are among the nearly 700 customers choosing to subscribe to the second section.”
by Matt Overing
September 22, 2020