Starting next spring, sunlight will heat the water in the Wade King Student Recreation Center pool.
Thanks to the Green Energy Fee Grant Program, solar water heaters will be installed on the roof of the recreation center, said Stephen Harvey, Western Washington University student and project lead.
The Green Energy Fee Grant Program awarded a group of students $219,511 to pay for the project. Western students Harvey, Brian Maskal and Nina Olivier proposed the project to decrease carbon dioxide emissions and increase awareness of solar thermal energy at Western.
The solar water heaters are expected to save 25 to 40 percent of the pool’s energy needs annually, Harvey said.
The project is currently in the design and bidding process. Harvey expects the heaters to be installed in spring 2014, he said.
This is a pilot project to see how solar thermal energy can fit into Western, he said. Solar thermal energy can also be used to heat showers in dorms or heat water for dishwashing in the dining halls on campus.
Most of the energy for space heating and hot water heating comes from the Steam Plant on campus, which uses natural gas, Harvey said.
“When natural gas is extracted, there are methane leaks. Methane causes global warming,” Harvey said. “When natural gas is burned, it produces carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a cause of climate change and ocean acidification.”
Solar water heaters absorb sunlight and use it to heat water in the collectors, Harvey said. The water then travels to a system that exchanges the heat with the pool water, he said.
The water heaters will produce more energy in the summer than in the winter. However, the collectors can use diffused light, so clouds will not block the light from getting to the collectors, he said.
The students got involved with the project when they took a campus sustainability planning studio class.
During this two-quarter class, the students researched solar thermal energy, contacted solar energy companies and applied for the Green Energy Fee Grant, Harvey said.
The Green Energy Fee Committee approved the idea because the members saw it as a great opportunity to expand the Green Energy Fee projects, said Sadie Normoyle, Associated Students Green Energy Fee education coordinator.
The Green Energy Fee is a $7 charge students pay each quarter. The money goes toward buying renewable energy credits and funding projects through the Green Energy Fee Grant Program, Normoyle said.
“It’s really great because the Green Energy Fee is student money, so this money — when it’s in the form of a project — is going back to campus,” Normoyle said.
It also increases sustainability on campus, she said.
Grants are approved by the Green Energy Fee Committee, which is made up of faculty, students and staff, Normoyle said.
Faculty, students and staff can all submit project ideas to the Green Energy Fee Grant Program.
Students can learn more about the Green Energy Fee projects and get involved by attending the Green Energy Fee Idea Labs.
Dates for labs are listed online. The next idea lab will be held at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 5, in Viking Union Room 462A.
The Green Energy Fee Grant Program is funded by the $7 Green Energy Fee students pay each quarter. A committee composed of faculty, students and staff approves grant awards from the fund.