Augustana paving the way as a solar school
University of Alberta-Augustana project coordinator Mike Clermont (left) and facilities and operations manager Christopher Blades show off the recently completed solar project on top of the Augustana forum building in Camrose on April 28. The school now has the capability to produce 252 kilowatts per hour of energy. Josh Aldrich/ Camrose Canadian
The University of Alberta-Augustana is putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to green practices.
The university recently completed the second stage of their solar roof project, installing 469 panels on the Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Performing Arts Centre and on the forum building. This is in addition to the 488 panels already on the fly tower of the Lougheed Centre. In all, they have the capability to produce 252 kilowatts per hour of energy, 130 KW of that is from the new panels.
According to facilities and operations manager Christopher Blades, the solar panels have a greenhouse gas offset of 125 metric tonnes of C02 mitigation for Lougheed Centre and 60 metric tonnes for the Forum.
“If you put the fly tower and the new installation together, you have enough power to power … 30 to 32 new homes,” he said. “That’s really significant.”
Blades says with the fly tower alone over the performing arts centre, there are already days where they are over producing energy and selling it back into the grid, despite the facility being busy. The university, however, still does draw on the power grid.
For Dean Dr. Allen Berger it is about more than saving a few dollars on electricity.
“It is also a matter of practicing what we preach,” he said. “We have an important sustainability component in our core or general education program that all of our undergraduates are required to take, so we are able to demonstrate by example the genuineness of our commitment.”
The school has done more than just incorporate solar power into its grid over the last couple of years. Augustana has improved the green technology in a number of different areas including two retrofits of lighting systems on campus and mechanical improvements coming this summer. When the panels were installed on the fly tower in 2014, it was the largest integrated array in Canada, meaning they are part of the structure of the building, forming the tower’s envelope.
They have seen the example they have set pay off in their students.
Berger says about 36 per cent of their community service learning placements over the last decade have been environmental or sustainability related projects. The CSL program was also recently recognized with an Emerald Award which recognizes leadership efforts in the area of sustainability. Meanwhile, solar energy company Newo Global Energy opened its doors last month and is powered by eight partners, seven of whom are products of Augustana.
“That was a source of great pride,” said Berger.
This project was installed by Clark Builders with subcontractors Solar Harvest Energy, Solberg and Atco. The project was funded through the University of Alberta and their energy management and sustainable operations office.
“Their goal is to reduce the amount of energy we require, that we use. They look at efficiencies in systems,” said Blades. “Part of their mandate is to reduce greenhouse gases, reduce the university’s footprint and also the benefit of doing all of that is saving some money, avoiding some carbon taxes.”
Blades is unsure if there is space for more solar panels on the roof of the buildings or on campus. The current sites were studied for most efficient use of current technology. If they add more to the roof then they run into issues with weight loads, especially factoring in winters with large amounts of snow. They also looked at grassy areas on campus as potential places for solar panels. As technology evolves, there could be more solar panels or other renewable forms of energy added to the school.
Berger, however, says there are more ways that they are looking at being good stewards of the environment through innovation. They tried with a composting pilot project that used a digester to handle compostable waste a few years ago, and although it wasn’t as successful as they had hoped it is the type of program the dean wants to integrate into the school.
“It’s an area I would love to see us continue to work in engineering improvements,” said Berger, adding they are looking into green labs as well.
“On the curricular side, while we’ve built sustainability into our core, there’s more that we can do to ensure that we’re preparing all of our students to take on leadership responsibilities and to become activists in regards to the environment when they graduate.”