Green Building and Smart Features
In January 2006, Black Rock Forest’s solar panel system started producing energy. In its first 11 months, it produced nearly 26,000 kilowatt-hours (kW-h) of electricity, or roughly half the total energy used by the Center for Science and Education, saving about $3000. During the summer, the system provides all the energy needed from early in the morning until sundown.
The Forest’s system has three components: 40 photovoltaic panels on the south-facing roof of the Center for Science and Education, 32 on the roof of the Solar Pavilion, and 8 on the roof over the steps from the parking lot. These panels are connected to inverters in the basement of the Science Center that covert the direct current they produce into alternating current and send it to the main electrical panel for distribution. The system’s software provides real time (and archival) data on peak instantaneous power (kW), total power produced (kW-h), insolation (a measure of sunlight in W/m2), and temperature of the solar panel cells (which relates to their efficiency). These data are currently available on the web site of Northern Power. Consortium members may view the data for research or classroom activities by contacting the Forest office.
FXFOWLE Architects designed the Science Center roof so it would be able to accommodate solar panels, and also designed the Pavilion and the walkway roof. Together with the Consortium, they obtained a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA) that provided about 60% of the cost of the project; some additional funding came from New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, thanks to the efforts of State Senator Bill Larkin. Northern Power installed the solar panels and was the prime contractor for the project. Storm King Contracting built the structures, using red pine from the Forest to frame the roofs of the Pavilion and the stair covering.The Solar Pavilion (photo courtesy of FXFOWLE)