Tuesday, February 24, 2015

BSOS Sustainability Task Force: Solar Panel Design Process

Last week we mentioned our #BSOStainable project from the BSOS Sustainability Task Force, designing a solar panel charging study station. When designing the structure it was important to determine, for many reasons, the type of solar panels that would be used. This assignment was tasked to our Solar Panel sub-group. These members worked to find solar panels with the least environmental and negative social impacts that were also in a reasonable price range. The sub-group also spoke with solar panel experts on campus to find out what considerations need to be acknowledged when working with these renewable energy units.
Along with the rest of the BSOS Sustainability Task Force, the Solar Panel sub-group guided a site survey tour for possible installation areas of the charging station. The selected sites were chosen because of their apt locations with regard to tree canopy, and the sun’s path throughout the day to ensure maximum exposure.

After discussion with the Design sub-group, the Solar Panel sub-group determined that two units would be needed to support up to five laptops and five cell phones at one time at the station. Also in discussion was ensuring that environmental and social factors were taken into consideration when purchasing the panels. Thus, the Solar Panel group compared USA manufactured panels with outsourced panels. While the outsourced panels were cheaper, the group recognized that the distribution of cost over the unit’s life-cycle was in fact more expensive and less sustainable making the SW 270 Mono Protect (manufactured by Solar World) the best choice for this project.

Here is what the Solar Panel sub-group had to say about their choice:
This panel was chosen based on a number of reasons. First, the solar panels are made in the USA. The protect model was chosen over the plus or standard model due to the extended warranty offered as well as the environmental protection gains. The innovative glass used for this panel allows for greater weather resistance leading to longer service life. The 270 watt panel addresses the electrical requirements needed for this project. This panel will generate the needed power to charge the amount of computers and phones specified in the project along with the lights in the charging station fixture. This panel also is a monocrystalline-structured panel which provides better efficiency than other panels such as polycrystalline. All in all after comparison with other options the SW 270 Silver Mono Protect proved to be the ideal choice for this project both for environmental impact as well as financial benefit.

Are there any other considerations that are important when choosing materials for a renewable energy project like our solar panel charging study station? What do you think of the Solar Panel sub-group’s process and their conclusion?