Savannah Tech’s Solar Program Heats Up for Summer

#1359 | April 22, 2013

Panels avoided use of 106,000+ kWh annually plus generated 90,000+ kWh

SAVANNAH – Jason White, one of the founders of Okefenokee Solar, Inc., in Blackshear, Ga., attended Savannah Technical College’s Photovoltaic Systems class twice a week last summer. Then, he earned certification by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), a national certification organization for professional installers in the field of renewable energy. With his Photovoltaic training and NABCEP certification, White has installed 14 solar pump stations, one 8.25 kilowatt (KW) commercial installation and one 10KW residential system, since his company was established in 2012.

Students like White benefit from the College’s commitment to sustainable technologies through training for installation and maintenance of renewable energy technology for solar, wind and solar thermal. This spring the College started its wind energy class, and this summer students may enroll in a Photovoltaic Systems or solar energy class.

“We know sustainability continues to be a driving force in how businesses make their decisions for future growth and development,” said STC President Dr. Kathy Love. “It is important for Savannah Technical College to prepare students for a variety of sustainable industries including renewable energy, green-building construction, energy efficiency, alternative fuel technology and historic preservation.”

Last summer STC students enrolled in the Photovoltaic Systems class installed a 28.2KW system of solar panels on the College’s Industrial Technology building at the Savannah campus. This installation doubled the College’s solar panel footprint from 120 to 240 panels. Each panel has a 230W capacity.

This summer, the College will offer its popular Photovoltaic Systems class through the Electrical Construction and Maintenance program beginning May 30. The hybrid evening class allows students to listen to lectures and do course work from home computers and come to campus two nights a week for hands-on instruction. Due to popular demand this class is now offered year-round at Savannah Tech.

STC Department Head Lester Wiggins uses the two different installation methods for each set of panels to teach the students the power of heat’s effect on electricity. The set of panels installed last summer has the same wattage as the previously installed panels, but it produces more energy due to its raised racks. “Heat is electricity’s biggest enemy,” said Wiggins. “By installing the newest set of panels five inches higher on the roof, they will stay cooler and produce more power.” Raising the panels produces approximately six percent more energy or an additional average of 208 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month.

According to Wiggins, optimal placement for solar panels is due south. He also said that panels should be installed at an angle with the same latitude as the location. For Savannah, that is 32 degrees. Wiggins discovered the roof of the College’s Industrial Technology building, which faces due south, was slanted nearly 32 degrees with the first solar panel installation in May 2011.

The College’s Industrial Technology and Auto Technology Buildings averaged 26,000 kWh total for monthly use in 2012, according to actual billed usage from Georgia Power. Peak months like July or August used nearly 40,000 kWh each month. The annual savings with solar panels for 2012 was 106,760 kWh compared with usage from 2010, the last full year the College powered those buildings fully with purchased electricity. With the new system online, the College will avoid the use of more than double that amount to 200,000 kWh with the more efficient, raised panel installation.

Savannah Tech’s energy consumption has increased for Industrial Technology programs, since the first solar panel installation. The College switched to a semester system in Fall 2011 and began offering extended class hours to better meet the needs of its students. The College also increased the hours welding students used the building, so energy consumption increased while purchased kilowatt hours decreased.

According to Savannah Tech’s Dean of Industrial Technology Tal Loos, programs like welding, which use a large amount of energy and are housed in the Industrial Technology building, have increased enrollment since the panels were first installed. “All welding classes are full or right at capacity, even with additional classes,” said Loos. “This means that more students are welding and using more power. We have also increased the number of welding booths, so we have more machines running, which use more power.”

The solar panels not only decreased the College’s energy needs from Georgia Power, but also put energy back into Savannah Tech’s power supply. For the 22 months that the original solar panel system has been in place, the College has generated more than 78,000 kWh. The new system, installed by Savannah Tech students last summer was brought online November 30, 2012, and has generated more than 15,000 kWh in its 4.5 months of service.

Through using solar panels the College has reduced its carbon footprint by more than 160,000 pounds since May 2011.

Savannah Technical College’s Electrical Construction and Maintenance program prepares students for a career in Electrical Systems Technology. Students learn to inspect, maintain, install and repair electrical systems for residential, commercial and industrial industries. Savannah Tech has trained students to earn a Photovoltaic System Technical Certificate of Credit since 2006, when it was the first public college to offer solar training in Georgia. This Spring, the College added wind technology and plans to include solar thermal to its course offerings for Fall 2013. The program is one of the first in the state of Georgia to include sustainable technologies, which introduces students to various topics including energy efficiency, energy measures and management, sustainable energy production, green building construction and historic preservation.

Industrial Technology and Auto Technology Buildings’ Usage:
2012 313,160kWh (120 solar panels full year + one month with new set of 120 panels)
2011 373,760kWh (120 solar panels brought online May 30, 2011)
2010 419,920kWh

Actual billed usage 2010 – 2012. Source: Georgia Power.

Savannah Technical College serves Coastal Georgia with quality, market-driven technical education with campus locations in Chatham, Effingham and Liberty Counties. Serving more than 4,500 credit students each semester, Savannah Tech offers nearly 150 different instructional programs in Business and Technology, Public Service, Industrial Technology, and Health Sciences in addition to Adult Education classes, industry-specific training and continuing education. The College serves as an economic and community development partner for the region, offering corporate and customized training and assessment programs for business and industry. The College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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Industrial Technology/Photovoltaics Systems Course Information:
Academic Advisor Melanie Smith: 912.443.5859 or msmith@savannahtech.edu

Media Contact: Amy Shaffer, APR
912.443.5512 or ashaffer@savannahtech.edu