Bard is an historic college located in Annandale-on-Hudson, in the town of Red Hook, New York. Founded in 1860, it has since become one of the preeminent liberal arts institutions in the US. School officials are working to ensure that the campus is carbon neutral by 2035. In service of this goal, the college commissioned us to design and install a sprawling photovoltiac, or electricity-producing, solar system.
36 photovoltaic panels rest on the campus' South Hall dormitory. These electricity-producing cells power two Sun Bandit hot water heaters. Sun Bandit systems are unique; unlike traditional designs, which are strictly electricity- or heat-producing, Sun Bandit uses the electricity generated by photovoltaic cells to create hot water. We designed the South Hall system to be "smart" -- it only feeds enough electricity to the hot water tanks to keep them satisfied, or up to the required temperature. Of course, the panels continue receiving sunlight, so they continue producing electricity. When there is enough hot water, that excess electricity is instead fed back to the power grid.
The South Hall system also features one of the most useful tools we have at our disposal: an advanced monitoring tool that continually records solar activity, ensuring that the system is healthy and working properly. Together, the data it produces paints a complete picture of the system's history, which we can then look to when diagnosing a problem. And since the results of its every measurement are uploaded to the cloud, we can consult them from anywhere, at any time. We know thanks to monitoring that since they were installed in the summer of 2014, the solar panels at Bard have generated huge amounts of electricity. The image below, pulled remotely from the device, tracks South Hall's kWh production over several months:
We applaud Bard College's commitment to sustainability and environmentally friendly practices, and are thankful for the opportunity to have been able to help realize that goal. Shown here is the ribbon cutting ceremony unveiling the finished project: a thermal / photovoltaic hybrid solar system that will continue to generate renewable energy for years to come.