Venturing east on Highway 89 towards majestic Logan Canyon, drivers might fooled to think that one side of the new College of Agriculture building has yet to be completed, to become one with the rest of the facility.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite: The dark-looking side of the building actually shows fully functional, frameless glass modules which are tinted green and made with silicon cells. The modules — all 108 of them — have a 310 watt capacity, which means the system will produce an average of over 43,000 kilowatt hours per year. That’s enough energy to power four average homes.
The modules are just one part of a large solar array on the new College of Agriculture Building at Utah State University, installed by Intermountain Wind & Solar, or IWS — a Woods Cross city company — that teamed up with the local branch of Trainor Glass Company of Ogden.
The 33.5 kilowatt building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) project is the first of its kind in the region and the largest single solar energy system in Cache Valley.
“When students see this building, they’re going to realize they’re at a university that is on the cutting edge of building and power production,” said Jack Matsen, sales manager at Intermountain Wind and Solar. “I dare say this is at the pillar among other universities in the state.”
This solar project was funded in part through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and was administered through the state’s Office of Energy Development and managed by USU and the Division of Facilities Construction and Management (DFCM).
According to statistics from the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, it costed approximately $515,000 for the photovoltaics and $375,000 for the support structure (building and external), bringing the cost of the project to a grand total total of $890,000.
“This is certainly one of the bigger sustainability type projects we’ve done,” said Ben Berrett, USU’s director of planning, design and construction. “It’s a good project to be completed.”
The College of Agriculture facilty will be LEED certified, Matsen said. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized green building certification system.
“’Green Building’ is no longer just a trendy term. I think when it come to buildings of this nature on campus ... builders, archicehts, designers are looking more and more to green building applications and materials,” Matsen said. “We can’t take it for granted. It’s sort of like the automotive industry, where we’ve seen a lot of traction lately of not just staying with the old tried and true, but designing more engines that are fuel efficient. This trend is becoming the norm now.”
The specs of the solar array
A BIPV system means the solar panels were integrated into the architecture of the building and serve another function.
“Solar structures usually go on top of the building, which is really a shame because none of the students see it — and that’s certainly true in this case, because it’s such a beautiful, new building and so many aspects of this building have to do with really intential design,” Matsen said. “A lot of people have spent a lot of time being very intentional about every color, vertical or horzontal line — including all of the glass — and this solar (panel) system is no exception. It wasn’t just an afterthought that was slapped on.”
In addition to the main solar modules on the front of the building, there are three identical modules on the roof that will act as spare parts for future replacement of modules which could become damaged or inoperable. The modules on the roof have a combined capacity of nearly 1kW and are adjustable to various tilt angles in order to allow USU students to test and monitor energy production when the small system is set at different degrees during the year.
The unique cantilever structure, designed by Doralco Architectural Metals, acts as a sun shade during the hot summer months, while allowing welcome sunlight in to warm the building during the cold winter months. The new system will aid in the energy efficiency of the building’s already highly effective design.
“We would have put that money into the project, to put wndshades in anyway, so it helped to bring the costs down,” Berrett said.
The system will be monitored by USU through an online interface that will show ongoing performance data and metrics. Even though the system is fully functional, it will be turned on once the building is open to students and faculty in May.
“The real significance is that it’s on the for front of the industry in showing new ways that solar can be applied to buildings,” said Mike Hockett, division manager at Trainor Glass, Utah Division. “It pushes the envelope.”
The College of Agriculture building on the campus Quad is expected to be completed by December. It will open for classes next year.
“We’ve currently got a very old building that’s got a lot of problems that people out of, so we’re certainly anxious to get the people in (to the new building),” Berrett said.
The new building will replace the aging Agricultural Science Building across from the University Inn. That building will eventually be bulldozed for a new USU building, Berrett said