Renewable energy resource systems: a feasibility study for educational facilities applications

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

High inflation rates, rising energy costs, and resulting school budget problems have forced educators to examine alternative ways to ease the disproportionate impact energy costs have on the total financial resources of school districts. Renewable energy resources offer a wide variety of possible alternative ways to provide situationally appropriate answers to this budget problem. This study described the renewable energy resource system options in such detail as to enable educational leaders to make choices in directing planners to do further feasibility studies and in applying existing technologies to current facilities and new construction. Some of the energy resource categories examined were as follows: solar (including active and passive solar heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting, photovoltaics, and solar salt ponds), wind, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal. A good deal of the task was to describe the systems, to provide examples, to review the literature, resources, and location of usage, to analyze their cost effectiveness, to determine standardization and availability of technology, to review other feasibility considerations, and to examine institutional, governmental and other inhibitors to use of available systems.

All of the renewable energy resource systems have demonstrated successful competition with traditional energy resources in appropriate settings. Solar energy has been most widely utilized and priority consideration was increasingly given to passive solar applications and active solar heating, especially in hot water and district heating. Some of the resources were regarded as more appropriate to remote settings, especially wind power, hydropower, and some forms of biomass. The technology needed was available, even for geothermal energy.