Solar array at EMU exceeds output expectations

Judging by its performance over the past 10 months, the solar energy system at Eastern Mennonite University will exceed the annual guaranteed power production by 12 percent, according to officials at Secure Futures, the company that owns and operates the system at EMU.

Secure Futures guaranteed an annual output of 126,783 kilowatt hours of electricity from the solar photovoltaic array installed in November, 2010, on the roof of EMU’s Sadie Hartzler Library. The solar panels achieved this milestone earlier this week, a full six weeks ahead of schedule, in time for the autumnal equinox

“The solar panels surpassed all our expectations,” said Loren Swartzendruber, president of EMU. “Not only have they delivered more renewable energy than we anticipated—cutting the university’s power cost—the solar panels have also become a tangible symbol of our commitment to clean energy and a powerful educational tool to encourage our students to become environmental stewards.”

Since beginning operation, the system has offset more than 105,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the carbon reduction of 85 mature white pine trees—or enough energy to brew 2.6 million cups of coffee.

The system consists of 328 high-efficiency photovoltaic panels manufactured by the SunPower Corporation. Southern Energy Management installed the panels for Secure Futures. At capacity, the system can generate 104.3 kilowatts of electricity, making it the largest solar project in Virginia with enough power to supply two percent of EMU’s average annual energy demand.

“Traditionally, cultures around the world have marked the end of summer with the autumnal equinox. This year, we are fortunate that we can follow their example with a modern twist, capping off the sunny season with a celebration of the exceptional power of solar energy in action,” said Secure Futures CEO Dr. Tony Smith, who also co-directs EMU’s Steward-Leadership MBA Program.



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