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Solar panel system to trim utility costs at College Lodge
Saturday, June 27, 2015

Solar panel system to trim utility costs at College Lodge

A new solar panel system that is expected to save $1,750 a year on utility costs has been placed into operation at the College Lodge at Fredonia.

Comprised of two arrays or frames each containing 20 individual solar panels, the system is projected to generate nearly 15,000 kWh of power a year — enough to meet 70 percent of total electricity needs of the lodge, which is located south of Brocton, and owned and operated by Fredonia’s Faculty Student Association.

FSA Executive Director Darin Schulz indicated the solar panel system, purchased for $32,000 from Orchard Park-based FreedomSolar, will pay for itself in 17 years. It has a useful productive life of more than 30 years.

The solar panels replace a windmill system, installed five years ago, that suffered a catastrophic failure after being struck by lightning in May.

A thorough analysis by FSA determined that a solar panel system would be far more efficient and cost effective than a replacement wind-powered system. The two windmills were plagued by operational problems over the years and never achieved their full potential to generate a significant amount of electricity, said FSA Associate Executive Director and Controller Matt Snyder. What wind activity there was at the lodge was erratic and consisted mostly of swirling movements that did not promote a consistent rotation pattern that’s needed for reliable electrical generation, Schulz added.

The windmill system was insured, so FSA combined insurance proceeds, the scrap value of the damaged windmills and an additional gift from the Class of 1959 to pay for the solar project. The Class of 1959 also made a $10,000 donation to the windmill project in 2010.

With 750 square feet of solar panels, the new system is expected to produce energy year-round despite overcast Western New York weather. “Even on cloudy days, solar radiation penetrates clouds, though not as much as on sunny days, but you still make power,” Schulz explained. Moreover, solar panels operate more efficiently during cooler, overcast days.

“The ideal day is a ‘bluebird sky’ on a winter day,” Schulz added. “It’s cold outside, the panels are cool, yet they are getting excellent sun penetration.”

The solar panel system was installed along the driveway, adjacent to the main lodge building.

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State University of New York at Fredonia