A 118kW solar parking deck installation at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia (US) is the highly visible part of a larger install that is the largest solar PV system in the state of Virginia. Secure Futures LLC., a solar-energy developer based in Staunton, Virginia, managed the project, which totals approximately 450kW at two separate locations on the University's campus.
As part of Secure Futures’ commitment to being a “Triple Bottom Line” organization, the company sourced labour and engineering locally.
As part of Secure Futures’ commitment to being a “Triple Bottom Line” organization, the company sourced labour and engineering locally. The parking deck is the school’s most public display of its sustainability commitment. It sits up high on top of a parking garage, so the fact that it’s seen by everyone on campus was the reason that “a lot of tlc went into the design of the steel structure,” said Tony Smith, President and CEO of Secure Futures. The structure had to meet all the requirements for wind and snow load, but “also to reflect an aesthetic statement,” Smith said.
Standard Solar of Rockville, Maryland installed the 540 Sanyo 220W HIT panels, chosen for their efficiency but also because they are certified by the Buy America Act. The installation took about 5 weeks from the time the steel was ordered to the time the structure was up. It is expected to produce 166,000 kW hours of electricity annually, eliminating approximately 114 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in its first year of operation.
Scott Wiater, President of Standard Solar said the installation was the first that the company had done on top of a parking garage. “There were no major challenges,” he said, adding that structurally it required garage-load bearing points because the installation is not the same as a ground-level install. The great benefit to this type of installation is its visibility, according to Wiater. “We’ve noticed that on university and college installations we see much more activity with people looking at the monitoring systems.”
The parking deck is the school’s most public display of its sustainability commitment.
After some problems setting up a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the local utility, Dominion, Secure Futures restructured the PPA to a lease so it became a customer renewable energy self-generation project. None of the engineering changed, but the unfortunate consequence for Secure Futures was the reduction in tax benefits that had been factored into the financing of the project. Smith said that, while this is a small project on a national scale, the company is humbled by the fact that it is the largest in Virginia, a state, he said that is “tremendously lagging other states because there are a lot of disincentives and regulatory hurdles.”
In addition to the two solar installations, Washington and Lee University has undertaken numerous sustainability initiatives to date across its campus. It also has signed both the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, an initiative of colleges and universities in the US, as well as the international Talloires Declaration to incorporate sustainability in teaching, research and University operations. Commenting on the solar installations, Kenneth P. Ruscio, the university’s President said, "This is an important step for Washington and Lee as part of our continuing emphasis on sustainability. This is another instance of how we are aligning our institutional practices with what we preach to our students about their duties as responsible citizens and their obligations to future generations."
Featured in this video is Scott Beebe, Washington and Lee Director of Facilities Management.