Sunshine to brighten Goshen rec center showersBy Alysha Landis Goshen College
GOSHEN, Ind. — People taking showers in Goshen College’s Roman Gingerich Recreation- Fitness Center will soon have the sun — and the physics department — to thank for their warm water. Members of the Sun Shower Collective, consisting of students, faculty and staff, are building solar panels to heat the water in the RFC.
What started out as brainstorming among physics students in the fall of 2008 is in the process of becoming reality. Final work on the solar panels is being completed, and the group expects the system to be up and running in a few weeks.
The project uses eight tube-style solar hot water collectors, said Isaac Yoder-Schrock, a senior physics major from Donnellson, Iowa. The collectors absorb energy from the sun and heat the water that runs through them. The water is stored in a large, well-insulated underground tank.
The tank was installed in late September. The water from the tank is transferred to preheat the cold water entering the RFC boiler, causing the boiler to use less natural gas.
The storage tank is able to store up heat in order to get through many days of cloudy weather, said physics professor John Buschert. The storage tank, which the group bought on eBay, is designed to hold stratified layers of water for efficient heat storage. Once enough heat is established, solar energy will be used to heat the RFC water year-round.
The group chose the RFC to use solar panels because it is one of the few buildings on campus used all year. Although the dorms use substantial water for showers during the school year, they sit vacant during summer.
The students completed the research, wrote the proposal, contacted many of the donors and worked alongside contractors.
With the help of donors and a grant from the Ecological Stewardship Committee, the collective was able to complete the project. Buschert said that although solar energy may not be the cheapest form of energy right now, this project isn’t just about money.
The solar panels will also help the college get one step closer to President Jim Brenneman’s 1997 goal of becoming a carbon-neutral campus.
Energy-reducing initiatives have included technical adjustments to systems, conservation education, more energy-efficient construction and new equipment.
The college uses a computerized energy management system, which can control heating and cooling in rooms across campus based on detailed schedules of occupancy. There are timers, sensors and motion detectors to turn energy-efficient lights off when not in use or when outside light is sufficient. Hot water temperatures are adjusted based on outdoor temperatures. Computerized controls of fans and pumps save significant amounts of energy.
From July 2010 to June 2011, the college used 5,160,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity. This is the lowest electrical consumption since 1991-92. During the same period, the college used 28,640.4 decatherms of gas. This is about 20 percent less natural gas consumed per year than the college used in 1990.
Comment on the article Sunshine to brighten Goshen rec center showers
Please keep comments civil. MWR editors reserve the right to remove any comment. When posting a comment, you agree to the MWR Comments Policy. Name and comment will be posted; commenters are strongly encouraged to give their full name. Email address is for follow-up only and will not be made public.