Solar Energy Installation Project

Over the 2022/2023 academic year, Professor Ian Carbone and students in the Allegheny’s Department of Environmental Science and Sustainability carried out a grant-funded solar installation at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Meadville.

This involved engaging the students and faculty member in assessing the energy needs of the church, designing a solar installation project to meet those needs, writing a grant proposal and receiving funds, purchasing all of the necessary equipment, and then conducting the installation.

The project led to a follow-up independent study exploring the viability of a student-led solar design and installation program designed to provide discounted solar installations for nonprofits.

The first student experience is a solar design course based on the Community Energy Design special topics course that was taught in the fall of 2021. This course will serve as the capstone for the Energy and Society minor and an upper-level option for ESS students. In addition to learning about energy systems, energy access, and solar design and installation principles, this course will also be registered with the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) so that students may test for the NABCEP PV Associates Credential. This course will take place in the fall semester of each year and will partner with a community stakeholder so that students may design solar array proposals for the nonprofit in a final course project.

The second student experience will be an independent study of 2-3 students that will use the student designs from Community Energy Design to develop a finalized design for an installation to take place during the summer of 2024. Students will use the semester to identify required materials, develop a budget, facilitate an assessment by a structural engineer, file construction permits, and procure equipment and tools for a summer installation.
The third student experience will consist of a student-led execution and installation of the proposed solar array during the summer following the independent study. In addition to executing the proposed solar design, students will carry out work repairing and maintaining past installations and preparing and submitting documents so that nonprofit stakeholders may receive state and federal solar incentives. It is hoped that this work can be funded by Allegheny following the example of the Summer Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Program and that students will participate in an existing ESS program that currently enables students to receive their OSHA basic construction safety certification. In order for this program to be successful, we would also require coverage from Allegheny’s liability and workers’ compensation insurance policies, and a mechanism for receiving payments from nonprofit stakeholders to cover material costs.