Campus as a Test Bed

Ohio State supports "campus as a test bed" activities, in which the university is a resource for testing and improving new industrial technologies; helping faculty teams to obtain research funding; improving campus operations; and engaging students in cutting-edge sustainability science. Find out more about existing and potential projects at Campus as a Living Laboratory.

Stone Lab Solar Panels Measure Energy in Real-Time

Stone Lab Solar Panels Measure Energy in Real-Time

Ohio State’s Stone Laboratory teaches freshwater biology and environmental science to hundreds of students each year. Now, thanks to a recent upgrade of facilities there, university researchers, students and the public can learn more about solar energy too.

The oldest freshwater biological field station in the country, Stone Lab was established in 1895 and moved to Gibraltar Island in Lake Erie in 1925. It has established itself as the premier research facility on Lake Erie, leading the way with its research, education and outreach programs for the state, region and country. With energy efficiency and sustainability in mind, Stone Lab administrators recently installed two solar energy arrays on the island, and students, researchers and the public can monitor the solar energy output from the Stone Lab website.

The project was undertaken in two phases. Phase one, completed in June 2012, consisted of the installation of 44 solar panels to create a solar pavilion with two, 3-panel ground mounted units that can be manually tilted, and 3 solar thermal modules on the roof of the Dining Hall. Phase two, completed in October 2013, included the installation of another 40 solar panels on the roof of Stone Lab Classroom Building. Funding for Stone Lab’s solar panel project was provided by Ohio State’s Office of Energy and Environment.

According to Jeff Reutter, Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab Director, the new solar panels build on Ohio State’s commitment to sustainability and provide the university with an additional renewable power source.

“Our solar arrays continue Stone Lab’s efforts to provide students, researchers and visitors to the island and our website with opportunities to study different solar arrays and arrangements while reducing our operational costs,” Reutter said. “Using solar energy on the island allows us to do our part to address climate change, which is one of the reasons Lake Erie is having harmful algal blooms.”

The solar pavilion has 44 240-watt panels with a microinverter to convert the electricity produced by the panels from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). Half of these panels are monocrystalline silicon, which are more expensive, but also more efficient. The other half is polycrystalline silicon, which are less expensive, but not necessarily as efficient. In front of the pavilion, students and scientists can manually adjust the tilt of two 3-panel modules to determine the importance of being perpendicular to the sun.

The solar array on the Classroom Building consists of four rows of 10 300-watt high efficiency panels, each row using a different solar production strategy. The output from each of these rows can be viewed on the Stone Lab website. To look more deeply into the daily or monthly energy production of the Stone Lab solar array, another website has more detailed statistics.

The solar thermal modules supply almost all of the hot water needed in the Stone Lab Dining Hall during the summer where most of the Lab’s hot water is used.The solar panels provide about 25 percent of the power needs for all facilities on Gibraltar Island.

Stone Lab is used for education, research and outreach for The Ohio State University. Each year, Stone Lab has over 30,000 visitors, conducts 25 Ohio State classes, and hosts students and researchers from all over the country. To learn more about Stone Lab and its history, check out http://stonelab.osu.edu/about/.

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