Bellevue College has been awarded $410,000 from the State of Washington’s Department of Commerce which is to be put towards building solar panels on the R building. Based in Whatcom county, itek Energy is the largest solar manufacturer in the state and will be providing Bellevue College with the most powerful 60-cell panels in the country capable of reaching output levels above 270 Watts. “We should save around 85,000 kWh a year,” says Deric Gruen, director of the office of sustainability. Estimated at about $5,500 in savings every year, the college will be able to use funds towards other projects like infrastructure, student programs or other services geared towards a more environmentally-friendly campus.
“[Gruen] saw a chance for us to take advantage of this,” explains Associated Student Government Environmental and Social Responsibility Representative Alex Clark. “This is the first time they added a solar grant that’s part of [the Department of Commerce energy grant],” says Bellevue College Sustainability Director Deric Gruen. The Sustainability Department at Bellevue College is excited about this, because it is difficult to get funding for solar energy.
When a project is created, a variety of boards and committees need to approve it. “Because of the timing, we ran it through the ASG [board of directors] and … the Student Environment and Sustainability Fee which is where all of this money came out of,” says Clark. “This fee has, at any time, between $800 and $1 million in it.”
Students were able to raise over $71,000, and any donations are matched by the college. “There’s a double filter with funding anything through the STF, [the Student Technology Fee] … because it’s all student money, it still comes through the ASG BOD before the money gets spent,” adds Clark.
Choices for deciding solar panel location were limited, because most of the buildings around campus have a multitude of heating ventilation and air conditioning units. “[The solar panels will be] on a very efficient building, the R building, which has ground source heating and cooling, so it’s going to be a super efficient building,” added Gruen, “I think we had a good enough application so they awarded [the grant] to us.”
“The college has one overall energy utility meter that reports output,” explains Gruen. “We will be purchasing less energy because we’ll be generating that energy on site, and it’ll feed into a panel on the R building.” The solar panels will be able to supplement electricity to the campus in order to cut down on energy costs.
“By changing the actual physical environment on the campus that people see on a daily basis, it can help change their mindsets and change what they want to see in the world,” says Clark. To learn more about how Bellevue College promotes and acts on maintaining a healthy and cost-efficient environment, visit the sustainability website at www.bellevuecollege.edu/sustainability.