Assignment 2: Solar Power to the School

Topic: The school has been attempting to reduce energy consumption and increase green energy sources. Can we power the school/campus solely on solar power?

Audience: Students and campus staff concerned with reducing the schools carbon emissions, including those who do not claim solar power will be enough to power the school.

Source 1: Relevant Information: This provides the numbers about Penn State’s annual power consumption (300,000,000 kWh Average but as of late 280,000,000 KWH) and area of roofing and buildings for the campus. (79 acres of roofing and 933 Buildings) I could also use this data to estimate carbon emission reduction from the use of solar power as a supplement rather than a replacement. Credibility: Good, information comes directly from the school and is intended for use by students and faculty alike. There should be no reason to lie or conceal the correct information.

Source 2: Relevant information: This website calculates the power generated by a single solar panel system based on local weather patterns and solar panel type. (~5000 kWh annual average) Additionally, the power generation is calculated on a month to month basis, displaying the seasonal variance. This also could be used to estimate cost if I find that to be a worthwhile pursuit later. Credibility: Fair-Good. This is a government owned website, but it also appears to enable ordering of solar panels. It may be possible that they stand to gain from sales made through this website; however, the low estimation of power generations leads me to believe they are not lying.

Source 3: Relevant Information: This website provides the surface area of roof based solar panels, which is surprisingly not easily accessible from the previous source. Credibility: Good. Although this information comes from a U.K. based company or comparison website. There is absolutely no benefit to lying about solar panel size, and the effect of the U.K. source is simply that the size is measured in meters.

Source 4: Relevant Information: This is one of a few news article from Penn state that provides some background information on the schools energy based goals and activities. I simply used this to craft the introduction and reason to pursue this topic. Credibility: Fair. Obviously, Penn state has an interest in improving their reputation, but since this isn’t a source of data used for calculation or construction of any argument I see no reason to exclude its use based on skepticism.

Ideas fit together: I will use the data provided by the listed sources to discover if we can power the campus with only solar panels installed onto our existing roof area. Upon confirming that this is not possible, I will explore how much we can reduce carbon emissions by using solar power as a supplement to our existing power sources, paying particular attention to the summer months. Source 1 provides the relevant information about campus, while source 2 provides the relevant information about the solar panel power generation, and source 3 provides information about solar panel size.

Mathematical Equations: I intend to calculate whether solar panels installed on University Park’s existing roof space can meet the power generation requirements of the campus. If they cannot, I will calculate how much we can reduce greenhouse emissions by replacing or supplementing a portion of our power with solar power.

Introduction: Penn State University has been trying to reduce their energy consumption and convert to cleaner energy as of late to reduce their Greenhouse emissions and “Go Green.” They even have put student teams to the task of outlining proposals for green energy on a smaller scale. There is actually a petition on the table for Penn State to convert to solar energy. However, University Park is in a colder area with semi-frequent cloud cover and precipitation. Furthermore there are a lot of students residing in the area, and the energy consumption can be quite intense. Could the campus really be powered on solar energy alone?

Conclusion: If we were going to mount solar panels on every square meter of roof area presently in the University Park Campus we could only meet 20% of the campus’ annual power consumption. This is even less promising when considering how unreasonable using every bit of roof space is and the seasonal variance of power generated by these solar panels. That is not to say that solar panels couldn’t supplement our power generation at the school and reduce our greenhouse emissions considerably, but we cannot power this campus on solar power alone, at least not with standard residential solar power.

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