Aug 09, 2014 11:48am
Solar panels installed on roof of Liberty Hall
October 11, 2013 - 12:20pm

Installing its first solar panel array on campus in late August 2013, EvCC surpassed an 8-year-old goal, thanks to dedicated EvCC staff members, Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD) and legislative funds.

The 19 kilowatt solar panel array is located on top of the new Liberty Hall building on campus.

Solar panels on top of Liberty Hall. // Meagan Baron

Molly Beeman, EvCC administrative services manager for facilities and maintenance, said that most kilowatt projects are only two or three kilowatts, which was the original size. However, thanks to PUD funding $25,000, EvCC was able to think bigger.

EvCC maintenance mechanic, Patrick Snowden, said that the solar panels were installed by Fire Mountain Solar, a Mt. Vernon company.

“That’s kind of beyond our scope here, so in order for PUD to sign off on it we had to hire outside contractors,” said Snowden.

The new solar panels are beneficial to the student body because they fulfill educational purposes.

Information from the energy and money statistics will be used on-campus “by engineering classes, instructors who are teaching sustainability on campus [and] public outreach,” said Beeman, “So, it’s got wide fingers into the campus culture.”

Also, the solar panels are financially beneficial to the school.

“We produce a certain amount of energy with the solar [panels], we feed that directly back into the grid, and we get a certain amount of credit. They credit us off of our bill. So basically our power bill is offset on the amount of power we generate,” said Snowden.

At the rate of 7 cents per kilowatt, a year’s worth of energy from EvCC’s solar panel is equivalent to “11.6 metric tons of CO2, 2.4 car emissions, 27.1 barrels of oil, CO2 emissions for 1.7 homes, 56 million Btu [or] 2.03 metric tons of coal,” said Snowden.   In addition, Snowden said that the solar panels would not pay for

themselves for quite a while.

For EvCC, compensation is a fraction of the typical cost since it’s a state funded organization. The 2013 Biennial Energy Report for Washington State determines that state funded organizations receive 7 cents a kilowatt, while organizations and houses that are not state funded receive $1.07 a kilowatt.

Beeman said that the writers of the bill didn’t mean to exclude community colleges.

In addition, Beeman said that she will continue trying to get the bill changed in the future since universities, which are not state funded, can receive $1.07 a kilowatt, but not “community colleges, the people that need it the worst [and] that have the least funding.”

The bill will be up for renewal in 2015. During the renewal process, the drafters of the bill will try to include community colleges then, said Beeman, but not now because of fear that the bill would get overturned completely.

Since solar panels are beneficial, nonpolluting, reliable pieces of machinery, according to both Snowden and Beeman, EvCC plans to install more solar panels in the future as educational projects. In fact, a small company in Arlington named OutBack Power, a previous employer of Snowden, donated $15,000 of technical equipment to EvCC in 2010.

Sometime in the future, that equipment will be used to expand the project.

“I have to wait a year before I can apply for funds again, because you apparently can’t be greedy,” Beeman laughs, “Once I’ve done that, we have a couple of different sites we are looking at. But, there is nothing that is certain.”



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