Cedarville University uses solar array to cut costs, teach students

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Cedarville University??€™s solar panels contribute about 10 percent of the University??€™s electricity.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The Cedarville University campus has turned to renewable energy to foster a relationship with the village of Cedarville and offer engineering students a chance to learn more about the field.

The university, in partnership with Melink — a provider of clean, renewable energy based in Milford — and the village, first installed the solar array in 2012. The 10-acre field of solar panels, located behind the Cedar Cliff Falls at Indian Mound Reserve Park, has since generated enough power to reduce the campus’s energy costs by roughly $80,000 in the first four years of its installation, according to Cedarville.

Rod Johnson, associate vice president of operations for the university, said the array has become a big part of the overall campus energy system.

“During an average year, it provides 10 to 11 percent of our overall usage,” he said. “It’s quite an addition to our utility infrastructure.”

The array is connected to the entire power network for the university, Johnson said, and energy it generates can be used anywhere on the campus, from a classroom to the coffee shop.

“It doesn’t power any one thing, per se,” he said. “We just use it as it’s generated.”

The school doesn’t own the array but leases it from Melink, Johnson said. Because of that, there’s no cost to Cedarville for the system. The university hopes to own the array one day but he said it has no immediate purchase plans.

Students on the campus benefit from having the array in more ways than just being able to power their laptops. Johnson said engineering students also have studied the system to help them learn more about how solar panels function and their practical use.

“We have a solar boat that we do well with every year,” he said. “We’re hoping some of what we learn can be used toward that.”

In 2016, three mechanical engineering students from the university used two extra panels to build a direct current-powered electrical system for the Engineering Projects Laboratory indoor fan as part of their senior project. The system has yet to be installed. Melink has also installed a statistics monitor on the Cedarville campus so students can see how it affects power usage in real time.

While the solar panel array has reduced costs, Johnson said increasing its size at this time would reduce its cost effectiveness so they don’t plan on modifying it.

“Unless the campus would grow significantly, we have no plans to expand the array at this time,” he said.