Let the Sun Shine In


The installation of solar panels on the roof of Baker Sports Complex lands the college in hot water…by design.


By Cathryn Westra

Would you like some green with your red and black, Wildcats? The Baker Sports Complex is getting a lot greener—thanks to the installation of solar panels on the Baker roof.

Two arrays of panels—one featuring solar thermal collector panels, and the other featuring photovoltaic panels—were installed on the roof in November and December. The first set of panels will create energy to heat the pool and some of the water used on campus. The second set of panels will create electricity to heat the Baker Sports Complex.

Over time, the two sets of panels could save the college about $25,000 a year in energy expenses, says project manager Kris Krider.

The cost of the project—about $600,000— is being funded with support from The Duke Endowment and with a North Carolina State grant that is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The first part of the solar project features 64 solar thermal collector panels, each measuring 40 square feet and weighing 153 pounds, which will use glycol to heat the water for Cannon Pool and the showers in the Knobloch Tennis Center. The glycol will be heated in pipes that run through the panels and transfer heat to the water. “Glycol is a good conductor,” explained Physical Plant Director David Holthouser. “We’ll expose the pool water to the hot pipes containing the glycol, and that will warm the pool.”

In the second project, a separate photovoltaic system will generate electricity to meet a portion of the energy needs for Baker Sports Complex. This project will involve installation of 378 panels weighing 42 pounds each. The PV panels convert sunlight directly into electricity by absorbing photons and releasing electrons. During prolonged periods of cloud cover, the system is engineered to revert to conventionally generated electric power. “It’s a good experiment to have both PV and solar thermal,” said Krider. “This way, we can analyze which system works best.”

The two sets of panels will cover 75 percent of Baker’s flat roof surface and 60 percent of the pool roof surface facing the Baker Sports Complex parking lot.

Both projects will help reduce the amount of fossil fuel energy needed to operate the Baker Sports Complex, allowing the college to reduce its carbon footprint. This is a goal of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, signed by Davidson in 2007. Other sustainability initiatives that Davidson has taken in recent years include reducing the use of plastic water bottles on campus, developing a comprehensive composting system that helps the college cut back on food waste, reducing paper consumption through the Pawprint printing system, and increasing recycling.

“Increasing the use of solar energy is key to the college’s sustainability efforts,” Krider noted. “Davidson is taking solar energy seriously,” he added. “It’s good for the environment—and in a climate that averages 300 sunny


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