Students Learn About Alt Energy with Installation of Solar Panels

by Paul Goraczko, Think Green Correspondent 

In an effort to further its commitment to sustainability, Montgomery County Community College has installed 44 solar panels on its this spring at its Central Campus in Blue Bell.

The panels are installed 500 feet from the intersection of Morris Road and Route 202 at the ATC ‘green lot.’

Located next to the panels is a display that allows students, staff, faculty, and even community members to see how much energy each of the panels is generating in real-time.

Each solar panel produces 285 watts of energy for a combined 12,540 watts. To put that in perspective, the average light bulb produces about 120 watts. Thus, the panels can generate enough electricity to power 104 incandescent light bulbs.

Solar panels, mid-installation. Photo by Alana J. Mauger

Solar panels, mid-installation. Photo by Alana J. Mauger

The solar panels, however, are not the first green fixture of the ATC parking lot; the lot also features charging stations for students, staff, and faculty who drive electric cars.

Thomas Freitag, vice president for finance and administration at MCCC, said the solar panel installation is part of a larger $4 million project with Siemens Industry Inc.

In fact, the installation of the solar panels was fully funded through grant money and was done in collaboration with Siemens.

Not surprisingly, the project has the full support of the township.

Whitpain Township Engineer Jim Blanch said, “We’re happy to see [the College is] working at alternative energy methods. It’s exciting to see these proposals coming through.”

For Blanch and others in the township, sustainable technology is warmly welcomed.

“It’s nice to see new sustainable technology being used,” Blanch said.

“It’s a good example for students. Hopefully they’ll go on to study [similar technologies],” he added.

For Freitag, however, the project is part of a much bigger agenda by the school.

“We’re very excited,” he said. “It fits very nicely with our overall commitment to the environment. It fits with the theme we have put together with the green lot…and it tells a good story to students, visitors, and faculty and staff as well.”

While the panels won’t power major parts of facilities on campus, the demo project will provide real-life teaching and learning opportunities for students, faculty, and staff, while taking the College one step further in its role as a leader in the green movement. 

Learn about solar cells on How Stuff Works

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