With the installation of a new solar system, the UCCS Sustainability Demonstration House is one step closer to a goal of being net zero energy, using less energy than the solar produces. For six days between August 5 and 10, 15 students participated in a Photovoltaic 101 course on solar design and installation on campus with the final project an installation of a 3.5 kilowatt system on the house’s roof.
The Green Action Fund awarded money for both the installation as well as eight scholarships for UCCS students, which reduced their tuition cost for the course to $50. Seven of the students also took the course for credit through either mechanical and aerospace engineering, or geography and environmental studies.
“Students were very positive about the deep dive into solar and especially the hands-on piece,” said Linda Kogan, director of the Office of Sustainability. “In addition to a strong theoretical foundation, students learned to bend conduit, connect solar panels and attach racks to the roof. On the final day, each of the students got up on the roof to install one of the 15 panels and signed their individual panel.”
Solar panels were donated by Sunshare, a solar firm that established the first community solar gardens in Colorado Springs, which also hosts some of UCCS’ arrays. The course was a partnership between Solar Energy International, UCCS and Aim High Solar, a local installation company experienced with integrating students into projects.
“Ever since the Office of Sustainability moved into this building, we hoped to bring a solar course to the campus and install a PV system on our roof,” Kogan said. “I was fortunate to take a PV course with SEI 16 years ago, so I knew how valuable this could be for our students. At the end of this course, many of the students indicated they were interested in taking the next level Photovoltaic 202 course, getting into the field, or installing solar on their own homes.”
Next steps for the Sustainability Demonstration House toward net zero are weatherizing and insulation, redesigning the HVAC system and switching to an electric hot water heater. All changes that have made to the building have involved students in workshops and classes and are documented in tours of the building. The next workshop, open to all students, faculty and staff, will be conducted by the Energy Resource Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 15, and focus on weatherizing through sealing, caulking and some insulation. Contact Kogan at (719) 255-3757 to register for part or all of the workshop day. The house operates as a way for UCCS community members to visit and learn more about what can be done in their personal homes.
Check out www.uccs.edu/sustain/SDH to follow the progress of different projects in the Sustainability Demonstration House.