WNC heads for higher ground to produce cleaner energy

Since 2009, Western Nevada College has actively sought ways to be sustainable in the operation of its campuses. Through continuing efforts and a commitment to use green energy, that vision is rising to new heights.

Black Rock Solar, a nonprofit corporation in Reno that specializes in expanding the use of renewable energy, just completed installation of 666 panels atop the Bristlecone Building on the Carson City campus. At 180 kilowatts, the project is Black Rock’s largest roof array to date.

It’s expected to begin generating power in the coming days. Collectively, the new array and WNC’s four other solar arrays will provide the college with 576 kilowatts of power.

“Anywhere we can achieve energy savings, we are all about that,” said David Rollings, director of Facilities Planning and Management at WNC.

Instead of driving up the cost of the project by connecting a ground display to the Bristlecone Building, the roof provided an ideal location, he said.

WNC’s interest in producing green energy began in 2009 under former college President Carol Lucey. She and then-vice president Dan Neverett led a college-wide effort to increase WNC’s energy sustainability and work toward becoming carbon neutral. Funding became available through NV Energy’s Renewable Generations program.

In 2011, WNC’s first solar array was constructed behind the Aspen Building on the west side of campus. The 200-kilowatt array included 840 ground-mounted panels.

A year later, 418 panels capable of producing up to 100 kilowatts were placed adjacent to the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Technology.

The first two arrays were expected to save the college $30,000 per year in energy costs.

In May of 2013, Black Rock Solar installed the first solar array display at WNC’s Douglas campus in Minden. The 187-panel array generates up to 50 kilowatts of power for Bently Hall.

Concurrently, a third array was added at the Carson City campus, just east of the E.L. Cord Automotive Technology Center. It produces up to 50 kilowatts of energy, reducing the building’s energy costs by about 20 percent.

Prior to the Bristlecone project, it was estimated WNC could save in excess of $40,000 each year on its energy bills.

“WNC has truly valued our partnerships with Black Rock Solar and NV Energy,” said college President Chet Burton. “With all the budget cuts the college has faced over the past several years, the energy and related budget savings from these installations allow us to reallocate our scarce resources to better serve our students and maintain programs.”

“We have enjoyed a very positive partnership with Black Rock Solar,” concurred Rollings. “They are fully committed to achieving a more green community through solar energy.”

Burton said the college is fortunate to work with such outstanding community partners. “We are thankful to be able to harness the solar energy of our region, and further reduce the carbon footprint of the college,” he said.

In addition, said Mark Ghan, vice president of Administrative Services and Human Resources, “Saving energy reduces costs and allows the college to focus its resources on students, and producing more graduates qualified to enter today’s complex workforce.”


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