Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia benefits from a 444-kilowatt solar photovoltaic energy system at two locations on campus. The School of Law’s Lewis Hall hosts 1,016 SunPower solar PV panels with a capacity of 325 kW. A custom-designed steel solar canopy constructed over the university’s parking deck supports 540 Sanyo solar PV panels rated at 119 kW. Altogether, both solar arrays hold 1,556 solar panels, all made in the United States.
The project started operations in December of 2011 as the largest solar energy system in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Solar power at W&L represents a natural outgrowth of the University’s commitment to environmental sustainability and leadership on energy issues.
Secure Futures initially owned and operated the W&L solar energy system through its subsidiary, Lexington Solar LLC. W&L entered into a 20-year lease agreement with Lexington Solar with the option to purchase the system in the future. In 2017, after having seen the high performance of the solar array over the previous five years, the university exercised its option to purchase the system from Secure Futures.
Who Financed the Project?
Secure Futures, through its subsidiary Lexington Solar LLC, purchased and owns the solar panels on the W&L campus. W&L hosts the solar facility, and leases the equipment from Lexington Solar. Using economic stimulus funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy awarded an incentive grant for the project. ARRA funds through the US Treasury 1603 Investment Tax Credit grant also helped finance this project.
Who Installed and Maintains the Panels?
Southern Energy Management, a North-Carolina-based energy efficiency and solar power company, installed and maintains the Lewis Hall panels for Lexington Solar, while Maryland-based Standard Solar, Inc., installed and maintains the parking deck installation.
Building Community Resilience: American-made Equipment and Local Partners
- Johann Zimmerman, structural engineer from Harrisonburg, VA, designed the parking deck steel support structure.
- Nick Brash, structural engineer of Lexington, VA reviewed and certified the solar panel roof load for Lewis Hall.
- Harman Construction, Inc. of Harrisonburg, VA served as general contractor for installing the parking deck structure.
- Liphart Steel in Verona, VA, an employee-owned company, fabricated the steel and erected the steel structure.
- The Sanyo solar panels on the parking deck solar canopy, and the SunPower panels on Lewis Hall, are certified American-made products.
- All contractors on the project paid wages at or above prevailing (union scale) levels.
When Were the Two Solar Arrays Built?
The parking deck canopy was built in the summer of 2011 and the solar photovoltaic panels were installed on both Lewis Hall and over the parking deck during Fall 2011.
How Big Is the Project?
During peak sunshine conditions, the system generates 444 kW of power. This provides as much as 3% of W&L’s peak power consumption. See how much solar energy W&L’s system is generating today at the W&L Online Solar Dashboard.
What Does the Project Look Like?
Solar panels nearly cover the entire roof of Lewis Hall. The rooftop panels are not visible from ground level but you can see them from other buildings on campus. The photovoltaic panels installed at the university’s parking deck are more visible. You can see the canopy with its panels up close from the top level of the parking deck itself. Or, if you’d like to get a great view of the solar array from above, take the walkway up towards Doremus Hall.
What Past Projects has the University Undertaken in Energy?
W&L ranks as one of the Sierra Club’s Cool Schools for the numerous improvements it has made in energy efficiency and resource conservation to meet its general sustainability goals and its pledges under agreements including the Presidents’ Climate Commitment and the Talloires Declaration. To save energy, the university has instituted a temperature regulation policy, has installed energy saving equipment and, in 2010, committed $5 million as part of its Five for Five Project of major overhauls to campus buildings and comfort systems planned to pay for themselves in energy savings within five years.
|Projected Annual Pollution Savings 444 kW PV Deployment|
|7,280 lbs||SO2- Sulphur Dioxide – Associated with visible pollution (haze) and acid rain.|
|12,960 lbs||NOx – Oxides of Nitrogen – One of the main causes of ozone (smog), also associated with acid rain.|
|80 lbs||PM10 – Particulate matter smaller than 10 microns – associated with lung ailments.|
|1.4 million lbs||CO2 – Carbon Dioxide is a normal atmospheric component. However, increased levels are likely to cause future climate changes.|
|120 lbs||VOC’s – Volatile Organic Compounds – One of the primary causes of ozone (smog), also some of the individual compounds are toxic.|
|480,000 gallons||Cooling Water Consumption – Because power plants are typically only about 36% efficient, they throw off an enormous amount of waste heat.|
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