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Rooftop solar collectors will heat Preston Center pool

As part of a solar energy project, Troy Kostelnick (left) and James Montoya of GKI Energy Consultants lay out tubing panels on the roof of the Raymond B. Preston Health & Activities Center on Sept. 15. A solar thermal array of 88 collectors will help heat the Preston Center’s swimming pool. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

The swimming pool at WKU’s Raymond B. Preston Health & Activities Center may be indoors but it’ll soon be heated by the sun.

A solar thermal array of 88 collectors installed on the Preston Center roof will use the sun’s radiant energy to heat the pool. Each collector contains 3.7 gallons of fluid that will transfer heat from the sun to the pool water in a heat exchanger, keeping the pool a consistent 80-83 degrees, according to Christian Ryan-Downing, WKU’s sustainability coordinator.

“WKU is guaranteed to save at least $10,963 annually by reducing the amount of natural gas required for heating as a result of this installation,” said Dale Dyer, plant operations manager for WKU Facilities Management. “With an initial project investment of $96,410, these annual savings result in a project payback of 8.8 years.”

The solar energy project is part of an Energy Savings Performance Contract with Johnson Controls under way at WKU that includes $9.7 million in energy-reducing and facility improvements across the campus.

“WKU is very pleased that Johnson Controls was able to include renewable energy (naturally replenished) elements in our energy project,” said John Osborne, vice president for Campus Services and Facilities. “The solar panels will significantly reduce the energy needed to heat our swimming pool, which is good for our environment and beneficial for our energy budget.”

The solar thermal collectors are manufactured by Heliocol and are distributed and installed by SunQuest Energy LLC. The same collectors were used to heat the swimming pool facilities for the Summer Olympic Games in 1996 in Atlanta and 2004 in Athens.

“We are very excited about the solar project at the Preston Center,” said Brad Stinnett, assistant director for facilities in the Department of Intramural-Recreational Sports. “There are very few campus recreational sports facilities across the country that have taken advantage of this application. This innovative project will help make the facility even more sustainable and we are appreciative that it was included in WKU’s Energy Savings Performance Contract.”

Ben Johnson, assistant director of Planning, Design and Construction, said other highlights of WKU’s ESPC include the following:

*38 existing buildings (3.5 million square feet) will be impacted with water and lighting improvements, including 35,000 indoor light fixtures and 1,402 occupancy sensors (saving 7.8 million kilowatt hours annually or equal to 709 homes) and 2,114 water saving fixtures and three rainwater collection applications (saving 20.3 million gallons of water annually or enough to meet the needs of 62 families)

*The project will reduce WKU’s greenhouse gas emissions by 21,487 metric tons annually.

*The project has a 15-year payback period, with a guaranteed cost avoidance of more than $1 million in utilities annually.

*The project will create or impact more than 200 jobs for the Commonwealth.

Contact: Christian Ryan-Downing, (270) 745-2508.

One Comment on “Rooftop solar collectors will heat Preston Center pool”

  1. Debra Althaus, nee Combs September 24, 2010 at 8:22 am #

    Kudos to my beloved WKU! I have been telling environmental science students that WKU is in the forefront on many environmental issues critical to Kentucky.
    The view of these solar tube panels is beautiful!
    Keep up the fight.
    Bravo from a proud alum!

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