Institutions of higher learning have produced generations of forward-thinking individuals educated in the latest curriculum, technologies and research. It only makes sense for universities’ energy production to be as modern as their academics.
TerraSol Energies (No. 369 in the 2019 Top Solar Contractors list) is a family-owned and operated solar EPC based in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Situated in the southeastern part of the keystone state, the company has solar projects in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey.
TerraSol primarily installs residential and commercial solar projects, but these states happen to be home to hundreds of universities, so the company is carving out a niche market with East Coast schools.
“Seems like almost everything we get into, there’s something new and unique about it, and it’s kind of a specialty,” said Dave Santoleri, co-founder and president of TerraSol. “We don’t mind; we love those kinds of projects.”
This pool of potential collegiate clients led the company to tackle its second university project in 2018 — a 175-kW system at Millersville University in Pennsylvania.
This system at the school’s new Lombardo Welcome Center was unusual for several reasons. It incorporates four separate arrays: PV glass in the south-facing wall, a flat rooftop dual-tilt system, a flat metal standing seam system on a raised portion of rooftop and a 20-panel dual-axis tracker on the lawn. Luckily, PV glass was the only technology new to TerraSol installers.
“This project was a little bit more unique than some of our others because it was a brand-new building, which we got in so early that it offered some really great help,” said Robert Santoleri, VP of TerraSol. “We were able to design the electrical system to accept solar. We didn’t have to do any retrofitting with already existing equipment. Everything was properly electrically sized, and as far as keeping it aesthetically pleasing, with keeping conduits and wire runs interior and concealed, we were able to do all that work prior to it even being built — on blueprints, really.”
While most of the panels are on the rooftop, meeting that energy need and making the solar installation visible to students and visitors was a goal for the building’s architect.
The dual-axis tracker was installed on the lawn, and PV glass was used in lieu of windows on the south façade to reach the school’s desired kilowatt count. The combined projects bring the university closer to its goal to have renewable energy power 50% of campus demand by 2025 and 100% by 2040.
TerraSol wants to help other schools meet their renewable energy goals too.
“We work with them to help not only with just figuring out if they can have space for solar systems but for just starting a sustainability mission in general,” Robert said. “We’re expecting high growth, but we have to put a little foothold in the education space.”
University solar installations present educational opportunities for students in engineering and energy programs, Dave said. Another solar project TerraSol installed at Williamson College of the Trades in Media, Pennsylvania, gave students access to controls of the campus power plant and solar system.
“That’s what we hope comes out of this — that Millersville becomes a model for what other schools should be doing,” Robert said. “Ultimately, what we all want in the solar industry is educated students that are interested in working in our industry.”
This story was featured exclusively in our 2019 Top Solar Contractors issue. See the issue and full list of top U.S. solar installers here.