Ohio State lab uses solar panels for study, efficiency

Solar energy collected by the lab on Gibraltar Island on Lake Erie is helping to reduce dependency on the grid.
MCT Regional News
Jun 16, 2014

Slowly but surely, Stone Lab is reducing its dependency on the grid.

Over time, the solar energy collected by the lab on Gibraltar Island on Lake Erie is expected to reduce conventional energy consumption at its facilities between 10 and 25 percent.

Solar panels are near the shoreline, on the roof of the classroom building and on the roof of the adjacent research pavilion. The panels along with low-flush toilets, low-flow showerheads and a solar-thermal project in the dining hall, which produces almost all of the building’s hot water, have helped reduce energy costs. But that’s not the only reason they were adopted.

“This gives students the hands-on ability to look at solar panels in action and show how important sustainable energy is,” said Christopher Winslow, assistant director of the Ohio Sea Grant College program at Ohio State University. “Solar is the new wave, it’s the new exciting thing, and what this platform provides is the ability to do extensive research on it.”

The solar-electricity project at Stone Lab was split into two phases, the first of which went live on June 13, 2012, and featured the construction of a solar pavilion, an outdoor classroom that produces solar energy and additional solar panels mounted on the ground.

Half of the pavilion’s 44 panels are monocrystalline silicon, made up of solar cells with one silicon crystal. They tend to produce slightly more solar energy on cloudy days than other styles. The other half are polycrystalline silicon, created with multiple silicon crystals. They are slightly less efficient. Researchers are comparing the two.

The six research panels on the ground can be manually tilted to different angles to experiment with the effectiveness of various positions, said Matt Thomas, the lab’s manager.

Because the lab’s focus is research, the installation process was quite a bit different from most others, said Dave Leahy, director of sales at Dovetail Solar and Wind and the project manager of the pavilion’s installation.

“Most of the time, people just want to know how to get the lowest costs and go with what’s best for them,” Leahy said. “It took a little bit more time with this because they wanted to know about all of the different possibilities and tried to feature several of them in the design.”

Leahy said the Stone Lab panels are connected to machinery that tracks the electricity produced over time.

Additional solar panels were installed atop the Stone Lab classroom building in October 2013 during the project’s second phase. Those panels are high-efficiency models that employ different solar strategies by row, allowing for comparison.

None of the electricity is stored, so what’s not used during the day when it is generated is lost. Cloudy days pose a problem as well, which is why the lab stays on the grid — for now.

The region’s access to sun during the spring and summer months makes the lab an ideal location for solar experimentation and research, Thomas said. “We really have some of the ideal solar capacity in Ohio.”

Eventually, officials there would like to expand their sustainable-energy sources to other buildings on Gibraltar Island, such as the dormitories, and potentially beyond. They’re also trying to make data collected from the solar panels more accessible online so it can be better used in research.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Winslow said.

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By Lauren Gibbons - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

Visit The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) at www.dispatch.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Comments

Windy

It's too bad they don't have a way to store the unused energy. Maybe that's planned for the next phase?

hit the road jack

"We really have some of the ideal solar capacity in Ohio" Another left wing hack! it's only sunny about 3 days per week average how would that play well for solar energy?

Really are you ...

I can make something that can be more dependable than solar panels and wind turbines. And it can generate the electricity you need inside your house or car with no external forces required.

This study is as useless as a past article I read in the Register or Reflector. It was an article about a study over a couple years that about which way a certain breed of dogs face when they relieve themselves. This study cost a couple million dollars.

It is a high school math problem of ifs. If a photoviolactic cell induces .6 volts, and if there are 2,000 cells. What is the total amount of volts induced? If the electrons move at 600 Amperes per hour. With volts multiplied by amps. How many Kilowatts are induced per hour? If the solar panels are in direct sunlight for 8 hours a day. How many Kilowatts are induced per day. If the average overcast per week only let's the sunlight reach the solar panels 5 days a week. How many Kilowatts of electricity will be induced per week? There are 52 weeks in a year. How many Kilowatts of electricity would be induced per year? Subtract that total from last years total electrical consumption from the building(s) you are applying this data to. Efficiency study problem solved. Of course there going to be the daily variables of electrical consumption. Everyday are going to have 9 lights on for exactly 8 hours total? Every day is the computer going to be on for exactly 8 hours... Probable not.

And send me the million dollars this Ohio State lab is receiving for this ridiculous study. I would have no problem finishing my prototype, and I will send the unused money back to the donor.