Nineteen students and two instructors from Alfred State’s electrical construction and maintenance electrician program headed to Washington, D.C. this October to complete the largest phase of what has been a five-year project to help the U.S. National Arboretum meet its sustainability goals. Their mission: to install a 15 kilowatt photo voltaic system.
The new solar energy system is just one part of a long-term plan to update and improve the arboretum grounds while educating the public about renewable energy technology. The 446-acre facility operated by the Agriculture Research Service in Washington, D.C., is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the USDA. This particular phase will supply power to the arboretum to offset electricity costs associated with the facility’s bonsai displays.
But this isn’t the first time Alfred State students and faculty have made the trip. The college first participated in the 2008 USDA Bioenergy Awareness Days conference at the arboretum, where they presented a hands-on display focused on renewable energy projects. Impressed with the college’s expertise, Arboretum Director Tom Elias asked Alfred State to help them with further projects—namely, conducting major solar installations and training at the facility. As part of a five-year cooperative agreement, the college has completed two other solar installs, including a 1 kilowatt solar electric array that powers a drip irrigation system. Although this year’s install constitutes the end of the agreement, both organizations are eager to extend it into the foreseeable future.
“Projects like this help prepare our students. They involve planning and working in a real world environment with real deadlines,” says Craig Clark, interim vice president for academic affairs at Alfred State. “This will be an adventure.”
Follow the installation and other exciting projects on the group’s Facebook page.