“The solar roof is going to open up a wide range of new opportunities for outreach and education on campus,” said Marion Gold, director of the Center. “It will help us raise awareness of renewable energy in the state, provide educational opportunities for students interested in energy issues, and offer engineering students a chance to get experience working with a unique new technology.”
Five-hundred square feet of the building’s roof has been covered with Sunslate photovoltaic roofing tiles, which, unlike old-fashioned solar panels, lay flat on the roof in place of typical roofing shingles. Manufactured by Sacramento-based Atlantis Energy Systems and installed by Clean Energy Design of Osterville, Mass., the tiles serve as both a roof surface and solar power generators. The 4.4-kilowatt system generates approximately 5,580 kilowatthours of electricity per year, enough to supply approximately 17 percent of the building’s electricity use.
The solar tiles are wired together on one circuit and linked to a control panel inside the Cooperative Extension Education Center, a 3,300-square-foot, one-story structure built in the 1930s and expanded in 1991. The panel allows the building occupants to monitor the amount of electricity being generated. An educational display about the system will soon be mounted next to the control panel.
Total cost of the solar roof project was $112,000, which included the cost of re-shingling the rest of the building’s roof with traditional materials. Funds came from an $89,000 grant from the Rhode Island Renewable Energy Fund, a $15,000 private donation from Henry and Julie Sharpe of North Kingstown, and $8,000 from the URI Asset Protection Fund.
“One theme of URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences is that of sustainability — maintaining environmental quality and economic vitality — and this project fits that theme perfectly,” said Richard Rhodes, associate dean of the College. “The Cooperative Extension Education Center is an important gateway to the community that is used as a demonstration site for gardening and other activities. What better building on campus is there on which to install an environmentally-friendly, energy-saving, sustainable roof?”
URI photo by Michael Salerno Photography