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Solar Powered Ice at BG Arena - Toledo Blade

Article published Saturday, September 11, 2004

BGSU develops sunny idea to make skating ice for arena
Photo
Solar panels on the roof of Bowling Green State University's ice arena generate electricity used to power compressors used to make ice for the skating surface inside.
( THE BLADE/MELANIE MAXWELL )

BOWLING GREEN - Ice here is now being made from sunlight.

Say what?

Bowling Green State University's 37-year-old ice arena now is partially powered by solar energy. A bank of 572 solar panels on the building's roof became operational at noon yesterday.

In a nutshell, here's how the $238,000 project works: Sunlight collected by the solar panels causes a chemical reaction that creates direct-current electricity, the kind found in ordinary batteries.

That electricity is sent to an inverter, a device that converts DC power into alternating-current electricity, or AC power. That's the kind people use when they plug appliances into the walls of their homes and businesses.

Here's how the ice is made from sunlight: Three compressors, each 100 horsepower, provide the coolant to keep the skating surface from melting. They're by far the biggest draw on the building's electricity. So by partially powering the arena with solar energy, the university is essentially making some of the arena's ice from sunlight.

Daryl Stockburger, Bowling Green utilities director, said the arena's rooftop has enough solar panels to generate 30 kilowatts of electricity, with plans to install enough for the system to put out 300 kilowatts. "We'll be adding panels. My expectation is annually," he said.

The panels were manufactured by First Solar LLC, of Perrysburg Township.

It was not immediately known what percentage of the ice arena's power needs were being met yesterday by solar energy because BGSU buildings aren't metered individually. The campus is metered as a whole, Mr. Stockburger said.

He and others, though, conceded the initial output is a fraction of the building's needs. Even 300 kilowatts probably won't supply all the power for one of the compressors, they said.

But they're enthusiastic by the project because it is another step in Bowling Green's commitment to having a portion of its energy needs met by nonpolluting, renewable sources.

The city also gets a portion of its electricity from the AMP-Ohio/Green Mountain Energy Wind Farm, west of Bowling Green.

"Every kilowatt hour here is [power] they don't have to buy from a utility," said R. Scott Sullivan, business development manager for Ballard Power Systems.

The company, in Fairfield, Calif., contributed $60,000 to the project by donating the AC/DC inverter and engineering services, he said.

"We want to see more universities use [solar] as a research tool," Mr. Sullivan said.

Other assistance came from a $35,000 Ohio Department of Development energy efficiency grant.

The city's general tax dollars weren't used because Bowling Green has a separate stream of revenue for such projects, in part because of agreements with AMP-Ohio.

Three percent of the city's customers contribute up to 10 percent of their monthly bills to support non-polluting sources of energy, Mr. Stockburger said.

Photovoltaic panels were installed on the arena roof by Advanced Distributed Generation of Maumee, one of the state's few contractors licensed to do such work. The company will install a smaller system at the University of Toledo, spokesman John Witte said.

Alvin Compaan, UT physics professor, said UT still is deciding which building to supplement with solar power.

That project, to consist of a 12-kilowatt array of panels, likely will occur in the spring at a cost of $100,000.

Half is being paid by an Ohio Department of Development grant, he said.

A National Science Foundation grant awarded to UT will be used next year to have small, 1-kilowatt solar demonstration project installed at UT, COSI, and the Toledo Zoo, he said.

Contact Tom Henry at:
thenry@theblade.com
or 419-724-6079.

Also See September 2004 Bowling Green State University Monitor Article:
Fire and Ice: Solar Panels Energize Arena