G W University to install solar water heater in The Dakota

Solar Water Heater - Ivory Tower

GW is installing its fourth system to heat hot water using solar energy in a residence hall this year, with an aim to save energy.

These solar thermal panels are expected to start functioning by next summer, which is a latest step in GW’s drive to reduce its carbon and fossil fuel footprint and achieve the goal to cut carbon emissions 40 percent by 2025.

University also has other energy saving plans. GW partnered with American University and Duke Energy Renewables, to derive half of their power from solar energy over the next two decades.

At Second Nature’s 2014 Presidential Summit on Climate Leadership, University President Steven Knapp spoke with American University President Neil Kerwin last week. He spoke about the Duke partnership, projecting GW as a model of sustainability for other universities.

Solar Water Heater - Ivory Tower
Solar Water Heater – Ivory Tower

Solar thermal panel systems save schools money by cutting down on the costs to heat water with gas, said, Peter LaPuma, associate professor, Milken Institute School of Public Health’s department of environmental and occupational health.

GW, along with the Nextility, will measure The Dakota’s roof and study water usage to determine the size of the system. It will also save the University money because GW will pay Nextility less than what it would pay to heat water with natural gas, said, Mark Ellis, sustainability project facilitator, University.

During last year’s eco-challenge, electricity use in the Dakota was decreased by 4 percent whereas water use increased by 60 percent from the previous year.

Colleges are increasingly adding solar power capability to their campuses, especially when building new residence halls, said, Jane Davidson, renewable energy professor, University of Minnesota. She said solar energy can be about 35 percent more efficient when heating water.

Certainly energy management, conservation and using renewable sources of energy are an important part of any campus because they consume so much energy. This trend is usually seen when new buildings go up, said, Davidson, director, solar energy laboratory, University of Minnesota.

Several sites on campus, like the Milken Institute School of Public Health, have roofs topped with several inches of grass to cut heating.

Two years ago, officials designed the University’s sustainability goals, including steps like adding green space to campus and becoming a zero-waste school through composting and recycling.

Several of GW’s peer schools like Duke, Emory, Georgetown and Northwestern universities utilize solar energy on their campuses.

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