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APSU Farm to Provide Renewable Energy Through Solar Panels

10/2/2009
Something odd is happening at the APSU Environmental Education Center (EEC). During sunny daylight hours, the little dial on the site's bidirectional electric meter is actually spinning in reverse, causing the Clarksville Department of Electricity (CDE) and the Tennessee Valley Authority to credit the University for the electricity it generates from its own renewable source.

This isn't some anomaly or the result of defective equipment. Rather, it's because the EEC, also known as the APSU farm, installed a two-kilowatt solar array on the site last month, using $25,445 in grant money provided by the Student Sustainability Fee committee.

All APSU students pay the fee as part of their tuition, with the money going to campus projects that encourage clean and renewable energy practices. The EEC was previously awarded grant money from these fees to purchase a Fuel-Meister II Dual generator, which converts cooking grease produced in cafeterias into a biodiesel product used to power tractors and equipment at the farm.

The new solar array converts energy from the sun into electricity to power a nearby classroom on the site. Any excess energy produced goes to CDE and TVA, giving the utility a clean energy source to provide to the community.

“This system has an inverter that allows us to sell power back into the grid as part of TVA's Power Generation Partners program,” Dr. Donald Sudbrink, assistant professor and interim chair of agriculture, said. “CDE is our local distributor, and we are their first commercial member of this program.”

The location of the solar array, next to the farm's classroom, means it also provides an excellent teaching tool for professors such as Sudbrink.

“We will be talking about this (project) in my renewable energy special problems class this semester,” he said.

For information on the solar panels, contact Sudbrink at (931) 221-7272 or sudbrinkd@apsu.edu.