A glimpse into the potential future of the University of Richmond campus is on display at the 1800 block of the University Forest Apartments.
Since 2011, UFA 1807 has been home to three rows of solar panels. The school installed them as part of an experiment to gauge the effectiveness of solar energy as a complement to the energy Dominion supplies to the university. Richmond’s heightened sustainability focus can be attributed to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), which President Ed Ayers signed in 2007. Soon after, authorities at the school were talking about renewable energy being the power source for 1 percent of campus by 2015, and 5 percent of the campus by 2020.
Although the university’s sustainability manager, Megan Zanella-Litke, said that Richmond was actually slightly behind these goals, she is still very pleased with the setup outside of 1807.
“The bottom layer is two solar thermal panels,” she said. “The photovoltaics on the two top rows provide electricity to apartment 1806, and it provides about enough electricity to give them half the electricity that they’ll use over the year, and then the bottom level provides solar hot water for 1807.”
Or at least it is supposed to. “The heated water for the shower leaves a little bit to be desired,” said senior Red Finney, who lives in apartment 1807 along with fellow seniors Sam Abrahams and Jared Feinman.
“From what I’ve noticed, it won’t get as hot as I’d like it to,” Finney said. “I wish the design were slightly better. During the middle of the day, the sun gets blocked by the second level [of panels].”
Solar panels, though slowly becoming more practical, are still an expensive option. “We’re thinking about the future,” Zanella-Litke said. She said the university was also updating and reevaluating its goals.
“Right now, we’re in the process of updating the climate action plan again,” Zanella-Litke said. “We revisit it every other year, and we’ll finish that up over this winter. It’ll be completed by January. This gives us the opportunity to go back and see what was realistic and what wasn’t realistic.”
Although there are no immediate plans for the installation of additional solar panels, the current ones are not leaving any time soon.
Contact Staff Reporter Jacob Steinfield at email@example.com