YSU adds solar panels

Array on top of Moser Hall to generate power, serve as teaching tool

Warren Tribune Chronicle

Martin Abraham said he hopes that his students will expand their knowledge of green technology beyond the classroom at Youngstown State University to other areas, including Warren.

Abraham, dean of YSU's College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, on Tuesday helped unveil a 4,100-square-foot solar photovoltaic array on the roof of Moser Hall at the university.

YSU plans to use the system to generate power for Moser Hall, where the STEM college is located, and as a teaching tool for students in the STEM college, Abraham said.

By working through YSU's partnership with the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center in Warren, the university looks forward to one day having the ability to provide an alternative energy option to area schools, businesses and homeowners.

"This solar-energy system provides a perfect real-world teaching laboratory for our students as they learn about new and upcoming technology as it relates to alternative energy," Abraham said. "From here, they can carry that technology outside to the tech belt in Warren and eventually to the business sector. They learn the skills here they will be able to use later on as we come to rely more and more on this technology."

The solar panel system, the first of its kind to be installed at YSU, is located just outside the door of a classroom on the third floor of Moser Hall, extending across a portion of the roof. It is mounted to the roof by way of the Solar FlexRack system developed by Northern State Metals, a Youngstown-based metal fabricating and alternative energy firm.

It has the capability of generating about 64,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually - enough to power as many as eight homes for an entire year.

Engineer Ralph Morrone, who designed the solar array, said its addition at YSU will benefit the university in several key areas including its ability to generate electricity.

"It serves as a way to educate students ... control energy costs for the university and promote the use of green technology," said Morrone, a YSU graduate.

The array, which is nearly the size of two tennis courts, was installed free by Carbon Vision LLC of Shaker Heights through various state and federal grants aimed at fostering green power generation.

Carbon Vision owns, operates and maintains the array while YSU purchases the energy from Carbon. YSU's rate in the purchase agreement is equal to that of power otherwise generated from fossil fuels. At the end of the six-year contract, YSU will own the system and generate free power.

YSU president Cynthia Anderson said she was impressed to learn that although the sky was overcast Tuesday afternoon, the solar array continued producing energy.

"Go figure," she remarked. "It's cloudy outside and it's still generating electricity. That is a wonderful thing. This allows us to take one more step forward in our quest to become an urban research university and that is a great thing for our students, our university and our community."

Last year, NSM and YSU entered into a research partnership that included the donation of a wind tunnel and other laboratory equipment to the university to conduct tests on the Solar FlexRack and other products.

Plans for the solar array were announced a year ago during a news conference with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. It took a team of two to five people about five weeks this summer to install the array. The panels are pointed to the south to maximize exposure to the sun.

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