College of The Albemarle’s two-year-old Sustainability Technologies curriculum just received its first grant of nearly $5,000 earlier this month.
The local community college received the funding as part of the Solar Schools Grant offered by the North Carolina Solar Center at North Carolina State University. COA was one of about five community colleges in the Southern Mid-Atlantic region to receive the grant funding.
The money is evidence of the school’s commitment to develop a solar program. The mini-grants – which ranged from $3,000 to $5,000 – were awarded to regional community colleges with administrations committed to the creation and maintenance of developed solar programs.
“They wanted it to go to a college where they were going to make a full commitment to solar education,” said John Stolarczyk, COA’s sustainable energy
program coordinator on the Edenton campus. “And since COA had so much solar already, it showed we were investing in solar education.”
Although the school’s Sustainable Technologies program is barely two years old, the fledgling curriculum has several solar projects it is currently working on. The grant funding, Stolarczyk said, will help complete these projects in the upcoming months.
“COA already has solar-training in place, so we’re ahead of many community colleges,” Stolarczyk said. “But we want to finish up on some projects we had started.”
One of these projects is the school’s mobile solar lab currently under construction on COA’s Edenton campus. Since February, several students in the school’s Sustainable Capstone class – part of COA’s sustainable technologies program – began construction of the earth-friendly project and expect to have it completed in the next few weeks.
The students are working to transform a 12-foot cargo trailer into an environmentally-friendly mobile energy station that will operate on the electricity created by three solar panels, a solar thermal panel and a wind turbine the students have installed.
In addition to this, Stolarczyk wants to use some of the grant funding to add a 32-inch LED monitor to the mobile energy lab.
“So we can pull up owner’s manuals and do energy modeling, determining how much solar or wind energy a site can produce,” Stolarczyk said. “We can use it like a regular computer monitor, but in the field.”
The grant funding will also be used to help complete the sustainable technology program’s solar farm in Edenton, which has three ground-mounted photovoltaic systems. The PV systems, which generate electric power by converting energy from the sun, are in place, but not yet complete.
Stolarczyk said some of the grant money will be used to finish connecting those systems and help with permitting costs. Once the solar farm’s PV systems are complete, he added, it can begin generating electricity for the Edenton campus.
“So we can sell the solar power energy we’re making, back to the power company,” Stolarczyk said, adding it could save the campus about $50 to $100 on its electric bill each month. “We’ve probably got about 5 kilowatts of solar energy there that we could use to power the campus. It’s definitely a savings.”
For more information on the Solar Schools Grant funding, or COA’s Sustainability Technologies program, contact John Stolarczyk, sustainable energy program coordinator at (252) 335-0821 x 2418.