Dave Allemand looks over Southern Adventist University’s new solar panel system atop one of its warehouses on the campus in Collegedale.
Southern Adventist University christened the Chattanooga area’s second-largest solar array Wednesday.
The 806-panel, 200-kilowatt system is second only to the Chattanooga Airport’s array, knocking the downtown BlueCross BlueShield array to third place.
“It’s great financially and it’s great for the environment and sustainability,” said Tom Verrill, the university’s vice president for finance. “It’s a win all around.”
The $843,000 system comes with a 30-year warranty and, thanks to government incentives and utility energy buy-back programs, the panels are expected to pay for themselves within seven years.
The green project, which has been generating power since mid-March, has positive effects beyond the financial and environmental gains. The project was student-driven, and serves as a lesson in ways to find sustainable business practices.
“Before we go out in the community, we need Southern to be green,” said Karla Coupland, one of the students behind the project. “We wanted to create a culture of stewardship.”
Coupland hopes future students will follow her lead and look for ways, both before and after graduation, to save money by saving the environment.
“It saddens me to think more universities don’t do this,” said Joy McKee, who heads Southern’s corporate and foundation relations. “It’s really important to be good stewards of our community and constituents.”
Hamilton County does a great deal to support the university, McKee said, and Southern was excited to find a way it could help support the future health of the community.
She recommended universities looking to emulate the program find student organizations to lead the effort.
“It sets students on the path to figuring out green things,” she said. “Having that type of infrastructure, we can just rubber stamp it.”