The Catholic University of America

Oct. 21, 2009

CUA Announces Installation of Largest Solar-Energy System in D.C. Area

Harry Warren, left, president of WGES, Father David O'Connell and Scott Wiater, president of Standard Solar, soak up the sunshine on the roof of Flather Hall.

Catholic University announced in a rooftop ceremony today that it is creating the largest solar-energy system in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area with the installation of more than 1,000 solar panels.

Looking out over the campus from the rooftop of Flather Hall, Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., university president, said 132 solar panels would be installed on the student residence hall and more than 900 additional panels would be installed on three other campus rooftops, beginning in November. (Click here to view video of the announcement.)

CUA has signed a multi-year agreement with Washington Gas Energy Services Inc. (WGES) to purchase electricity generated by the solar panels at guaranteed prices. In terms of electricity that will be produced, the panels will comprise the largest photovoltaic system in the Washington area.

Standard Solar Inc. of Gaithersburg, Md., will install the 3-by-6-foot solar panels on the roofs of the Raymond A. DuFour Center and Aquinas, Flather and Gibbons halls. The installation of 30,233 square feet of solar panels will be completed and the panels will be producing electricity by the end of the year.

"At Catholic University, we're so conscious of our responsibility to be good stewards of what God has given us," Father O'Connell said in a sun-draped announcement attended by representatives of WGES, Washington Gas and Standard Solar.

Father O'Connell, center, and Warren with the CUA team that is bringing solar energy to campus.

"By installing these solar panels, Catholic University is producing a 'clean' energy that doesn't pollute or create greenhouse gases," he said. "It's really the way of the future, and the future is now."

The solar-panel system, which will be installed at no cost to CUA, will produce about 340,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year. The projected solar-generated electricity represents about three-quarters of 1 percent of the 44 million kilowatt hours used annually by the university. The electricity will be used by the buildings where it is produced.

Harry Warren, president of WGES, used the analogy of a college lab project in describing the solar-energy system. The system, he said, was created with four key ingredients: CUA and its commitment to clean energy; supportive policy from the federal government and the District of Columbia; an efficient and effective system created by Standard Solar, represented at the announcement by its president, Scott Wiater; and WGES, which will own, operate and maintain the system.

Warren called CUA's solar-energy system a model for other organizations and institutions. CUA is extending its educational mission by demonstrating to the Washington region "how to make clean, renewable solar energy on a large scale happen today," he said.

The system will be studied by Associate Professor Scott Mathews, right, and students in CUA's new alternative energy concentration, including Christopher Pellegrinelli and Samantha Daubman.

Students, faculty and staff will have access via the CUA Web site to real-time data on the campus' solar energy production. Engineering and architectural students will get a first-hand look at the installation.

Father O'Connell noted that a solar-energy design competition for students is being planned by the School of Engineering, which this year added an alternative and renewable energy concentration to its curriculum. Attending the announcement were two electrical engineering students in the new alternative energy concentration and Scott Mathews, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

The backdrop of the announcement was Opus Hall, a nearby residence hall. Opus Hall, which opened in January, is the first LEED-compliant student residence hall in the District of Columbia. In another testament to its commitment to being environmentally friendly, CUA was the first university in the Washington area to purchase a portion of its electricity through wind power in 2002. In 2008, the university received an Award of Excellence from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its recycling efforts. (Click here for more information on CUA's "green" accomplishments.)

"Great things are happening in the area of sustainable energy and green energy here on the campus of Catholic University," Father O'Connell said.

"With the support of the CUA community," he added, "the university will continue to be a leader in environmental stewardship long into what I predict will be a very bright future."