Every year as the weather gets colder in Brunswick, the College manages to keep its students warm through the Central Heating Plant and other individual heating systems. This year, the College will bring its heating system one step further with the addition of the environmentally friendly solar hot water project to Thorne Dining Hall.

The College, having secured a $50,000 grant from the Efficiency of Maine Trust that is funded through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), is currently installing new solar panels on top of Thorne Hall. Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Katy Longley outlined how the College won the grant.

"We received a 10 on technical viability out of 10; an eight on economic impact out of 25; eight on cost effectiveness out of 30; a 12 on budget/matching funds out of 25, for a total score of 53 out of a total possible score of 100."

According to a January 7 press release by the College, the addition of these new panels "will effectively double the size of the existing 960 square foot solar hot water system atop Thorne Hall." The existing solar hot water system was installed in June 2010 and constructed using another $50,000 ARRA grant through the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

Construction of the panels is expected to be completed by the spring, according to the press release. Once the panels are constructed, Longley said, "We will be using both sets of panels. Together, we anticipate that approximately 50 percent of Thorne's hot water will be heated by the two installations."

Situating these additional panels on the top of Thorne Dining Hall is a logical move by the College, according to Director of Dining and Bookstore Services Mary Lou Kennedy, as the facility serves 360,000 meals per year and is one of the largest users of water on campus, using an estimated 1.75 millions gallons annually.

"We're very excited that the College received the grant to expand the solar heating system for Thorne Dining Hall," said Kennedy. "Because dining operations utilize such a high volume of water, reducing the use of energy in heating, it will have a very positive sustainability impact."

The College's project consultant, ReVision Energy, confirmed this, estimating that the additional panels will result in an added savings of 45,760 pounds of carbon dioxide per year by offsetting natural gas use in the campus and seasonal boilers.

However, even with such results, the College does not foresee further expansion of the solar hot water system.

"We will see how these two installations perform. We are not planning to expand this installation right now," said Longley.

This stance could be partially due to the lack of funding available for such a project.

"For many of the energy efficiency projects, the College looks to grants first," said Longley. "Although many of the grant programs in this area have exhausted their funding, we will continue to pursue grant opportunities for solar hot water installations."