Solar project to launch partnership with Corps of Engineers
Students and faculty members with Athens Technical College’s Electrical System Technology program are teaming up with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to tap the power of the sun through a solar-energy system they hope to install at Richard B. Russell Lake/Dam.
Representatives with the Corps were on the college’s Athens campus Monday, April 1, to sign an agreement with college President Flora Tydings to develop a renewable energy demonstration project for the Corps’ visitor center on Lake Russell. This effort will assist the Russell Project in its continuing goal to reduce carbon emissions and advance environmental sustainability efforts. The building housing the visitor center also serves as the office for the Corps’ Lake Russell project manager.
The project calls for the design of a fully functional grid-intertie solar-energy system to offset conventional electrical power with sustainable power at the visitor center on Lake Russell. A grid-intertie means that the photovoltaic system will connect with a power company’s power distribution grid.
Based on the outcome of the design and efficiency improvements of the final recommendations, the Corps could pursue funding for the Russell Project and again possibly partner with the college to assist with awarding a contract or installation oversight.
The project is designed to serve multiple purposes, including reducing conventional power consumption at the visitor center, offering learning experiences for the students at Athens Technical College, and providing teaching opportunities for other educational institutions.
As the project proceeds, officials from the Corps will meet periodically with college representatives to review the progress and consult with the college to develop a work plan for use when it’s time to award a contract for the construction of the project.
Students taking the Photovoltaic Systems course as a summer semester elective in the Electrical Systems Technology program at Athens Technical College will provide site analysis, power load calculations, system sizing, draft specifications and cost estimates that will include three size options to generate up to 30 percent of the annual kilowatt usage of the project manager’s office at Lake Russell.
The solar power system must comply with all local and state building, mechanical and electrical codes. In addition, the design should incorporate remote monitoring systems to allow classrooms and other interested parties to view the system in operation.
Representatives of the Corps contacted college officials in 2012 to discuss the possibility of pursuing the photovoltaic project at Lake Russell’s visitor center, said Quinton Phillips, program chair and instructor for Athens Technical College’s Electrical Systems Technology program.
“Our involvement is to analyze the site, pick out a place for the solar array, determine energy needs and design a system,” Mr. Phillips said. “We won’t do the installation. If they get the funding for that, it will be put out for bids.”
The main point is that Athens Technical College students will have the opportunity to learn first-hand how to go about setting up a solar-electric system. Mr. Phillips expects a few dozen students will work on the project. Mr. Phillips hopes the project will draw more students from the college’s Elbert County Campus because it’s near the lake.
“We’ll meet at the Elbert Campus and ride out to Lake Russell,” he said.
Athens Technical College students working on the photovoltaic project also expect to design curriculum for elementary and high school students to use the solar-electric system site as an educational lab.
In the fall of 2012, officials with the Corps and Athens Technical College signed a memorandum of understanding that created a five-year partnership in which the two could cooperate on several sustainability projects.
Mr. Phillips said the Corps already has some renewable energy systems at Lake Russell, including a solar heating system and a geothermal heat pump. Also, the Russell power plant with its reversible pump storage generator is already the largest Corps hydroelectric plant east of the Mississippi River.
Photo caption: Athens Technical College hosted an April 1 signing ceremony to recognize a partnership between the college and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop sustainable energy projects at Lake Russell. M. Keith Crowe, Operations Project Manager for the Richard B. Russell Project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District met with college President Flora W. Tydings for the ceremony Monday morning. Seated, left to right — Mr. Crowe, Dr. Tydings; Standing, left to right —Dr. Larry Siefferman, the college’s Vice President for Off-Campus Operations; Mark Wade, Natural Resources Specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District; Susan Larson, Dean of the college’s Technical and Industrial Division; Quinton Phillips, Chair and instructor for the college's Electrical Systems Technology program.