Colorado Public Works Journal, Spring-Summer 2020

Summer 2020 13 Keep it Simple, Solar They key to the project’s success is in its comprehensive design. CSUP’s solar system is a grid-direct system, meaning it will be con- nected to the power grid and does not need to produce 100 percent of the electricity demand for the university. Grid-direct systems work in a very simple way. When there is no de- mand, the solar panels send accumulated energy back to the grid for use elsewhere. When there is demand, the university draws power from the solar panels and uses it. Aaron McDonald, preconstruction services manager for E Light Elec- tric Services, Inc., a commercial electrical contracting company out of Englewood, Colorado, worked on the design of the solar system currently being installed at CSUP. He says the simple design of the solar system makes the project both cost effective for the university without sacrificing any potential energy savings. “This project has the potential to benefit the Pueblo community by saving energy that can be allocated elsewhere. Being part of a clean energy for the campus is an added bonus as well,” McDonald wrote to Colorado Public Works Journal in an email. What makes CSUP’s solar system different from most grid-direct systems is that it will utilize a distributed energy storage system (DES) designed by Johnson Controls, Inc. This system can intelli- gently adjust to store power for bad weather days, night classes, and save energy costs during peak demand hours. Johnson Controls installed a similar DES system at The Zucker Fam- ily Graduate Education Center on Clemson University’s campus. The system includes batteries and inverter in a single, compact package able to deliver 160kWh capacity and 50 kW power while allowing graduate-level engineering students and faculty a chance to meas- ure and track data related to the energy savings, according to John- son Controls’ website. Because of the state’s higher-than-average days of sunshine per year, McDonald is optimistic about a similar design working on other university campuses in Colorado. It simply boils down to the univer- sity finding the space and making the investment in a solar future. “It is really a case by case basis that depends on the energy con- sumption of the campus and the energy cost. The colleges and uni- versities would need to have space for the solar system and be willing to commit to a long term economic gain,” he said. Lighting the Way While the benefits to the surrounding community are noteworthy, the project also serves a practical purpose for the university. This summer, CSUP added two new online degree programs: a bachelors program in Health Science & Administration and a master’s program for Nurse Management & Leadership. The school now offers a total of seven degree options for online students. Renee Wall, who works in CSUP’s marketing department, says the goal of the university’s online program is to help students find their path and stay on it, regardless of what that success looks like to them. “Online students choose to pursue their degree in the online format for various reasons. Some of them have full-time jobs and want to earn an education without it taking away from their work. Some prefer to study and complete coursework in their own environment and on their own time. Others have families or are even located in a different state and can't physically be on campus,” Wall wrote in an emailed statement to CPWJ. CSUP uses Blackboard Learn to conduct its online classes. The educational tool synchronizes with CSUP’s network to power the school’s online classroom. Since students will transition to full-time remote learning for the fall the school recently fully integrated with Blackboard’s cloud-based system to cut down on back-end maintenance. CSUP said the power generated from the solar field will be crucial to successfully adopting and innovating of the platform to positively impact the school’s academic mission and student learning experience. “Current events have accelerated plans to move our on premise Blackboard instance into a managed cloud environment. This is a big step in helping us scale the LMS as our needs grow,” the school wrote on its website.