Future Plans/Project Updates

The NAU Solar team was able to develop conclusions regarding the solar thermal heating system and its place within NAU’s campus. By testing the solar collectors, calculating the potential heating production, and comparing it to the heating demands of the Engineering building, the team developed a theoretical system that could be installed. As discussed in the results section, the system does not appear to meet all of the requirements as desired by the school at the beginning of the project. To approve upon the design, future teams can extrapolate the data developed and propose a system that offsets parts of the load to an extent that will prove to be cost effective. With the current cost of heating the building from natural gas, the project will never be viable financially.

Another potential way to improve the system without changing the design would be to investigate the use of larger panels that can collect more radiation to convert it to heat. As stated, the design currently does not provide enough heat to offset the heating demand of the Engineering building due to the production of a single panel, as determined by the team’s testing. By simply upgrading the panel being used, more production could be expected. The NAU Solar team worked exclusively with the panel they chose due to its accessibility from the previous project on the HLC. It is feasible that with a more productive panel built for more large-scale systems, more production would be seen and the project could be further carried out.

Aside from solar panels, another direction the university can take to reduce the demand from the heating plant would be a Geothermal Ground-Source Heat Pump. These heat pumps utilize Earth’s near infinite ground heat as a source of building heat. Just under 5 feet below the surface, the ground is a constant temperature around 55°F deep into the Earth’s crust. Piping carrying refrigerant can be orientated either horizontally or vertically in the ground, depending on available space. The piping system can be built any size to support the needed flow rate to heat the building. While this option is likely to be expensive, it will not be limited by roof space. Therefore, this system can be designed large enough vertically to accommodate the entire heating demand of the building.

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Current Setup and Design Overview

Solar Readings and Analysis

Experiments and Results

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