Empowering Western NC and Upstate SC with Solar Since 1995


This 36 kW system, utilizing high-efficiency PV technology on a rooftop of a residency hall at Appalachian State University is the latest in renewable energy projects led by students and the Renewable Energy Initiative.

Returning students to Frank Residence Hall at Appalachian State University (ASU) will be coming back to their solar- powered dorm to find that the sun is now providing their electricity rather than heating their water. The solar thermal system has been updated with a 36 kW grid-tied solar electric system on the LEED Gold certified building over the summer. While our crews are wrapping up a few final details, the system is producing power through photovoltaic (PV) technology, just in time for the new semester.

We were awarded this solar thermal to PV system replacement through a competitive bid through project consultants Innovative Design, Inc.  Both the original hot water system, which was installed in 2009, and this newest campus solar electric installation, are projects of The Appalachian State Renewable Energy Initiative (REI.) This student-led, student-funded organization seeks to install renewable energy and energy efficiency projects on campus that are carried out with the help of faculty and staff advisors by the REI committee.

REI-driven projects, such as the 6.6 kW pv system we installed in 2012 on the Traffic Circle,  offer students learning opportunities while reducing energy costs for the University and helping them meet their Climate Leadership Commitment and work towards carbon neutrality. Jamie Trowbridge, who served as REI’s Public Relations Officer at the time of that project, is now working on our Design team. In reflecting upon the experiences being active with REI afforded him he replied “AppState’s Renewable Energy Initiative provides students a powerful opportunity to plan and execute renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, while learning how to interface with a large, public institution. It makes the coursework that much more tangible, and, when everything syncs up, the REI and the university are able to accomplish truly inspiring feats, like the Broyhill Wind Turbine. I am thankful for my time as a student at AppState and as a member of the REI. Now, it’s great to be working with Sundance, another renewable energy pioneer.”  (And, while a bit of a side note, at least 3 of our field installation members working on the Frank installation this summer have come out of ASU’s Appropriate Technologies Program.)

Utilizing the latest technology, the Production Report generated through HelioScope for the system calculates 55.51 MWh of clean energy will be produced annually.  108 high efficiency LG NeON 2 Series  335 watt modules, featuring enhanced warranty, durability, performance under real environment, and aesthetic design were selected.   It’s double-sided cell structure generates additional power as light from the rear of the module is reabsorbed. The array was mounted to the existing racking after the hot water collectors were carefully removed, at an optimal fixed tilt angle of 35 degrees and an azimuth of 183.6.  A 208 v Fronius grid-tie inverter package  and   three  Fronius  Symo  3-phase 10 kW inverters bring  high system voltage, a wide input voltage range,  MPP trackers for increased efficiency and maximum flexibility in system design. Additionally, SMA TS4-R optimization module-technology was used for its complete module-level monitoring and shutdown, and optimization in partial shading.    Fronius’ Datamanager sends the PV system values directly to the Fronius online portal, with ambient temperature, module temperature, and  irradiation data being recorded through sensors.

While technology is always progressing, this system is set to inspire ASU students for years as they help drive the future towards clean energy. One can only guess at the impact it will have over the course of its lifetime atop Frank Hall, but it has already served a significant purpose for the REI team that had the opportunity to bring yet another renewable energy project to campus.

Photo  and Video of Installation credit to ASU.

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