Every bit matters

Considering Dr. Mel Zimmerman's passion for environmental sustainability, it's no surprise Lycoming College recently installed a 15-panel, 3.1 kW solar array atop the Heim Science Building.

According to Zimmerman, a professor of biology and coordinator of the project, the Heim Building was chosen because it is one of the campus' largest users of energy. It serves as home of the biology and chemistry departments as well as the College's Clean Water Institute. Zimmerman said the goal of the project is to offset the power used by the CWI offices and labs, which he says account for 3 to 5 percent of the building's energy consumption.

The CWI was founded in 1999 to be a resource on water issues and a partner of watershed groups for education and the protection of the water quality of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and major tributaries.

"I hope this small photovoltaic solar demonstration project will not only serve as an educational tool for our students to explore alternative energy but also serve as a benchmark to kick-start the College into development of future sustainable technology," said Zimmerman, who also serves as director of the CWI.

The system was received through a $15,000 grant from the Sustainable Energy Fund, as part of its Solar Scholars Program. Of the 36 schools that applied for a grant, Lycoming was one of the 12 awarded funding.

The total cost for the project is $21,000, which includes a $6,000 matching grant from the College. Zimmerman says that the College's return on investment for using the solar array will likely take five to six years.

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