LASR Project: Andrew Snead ’15 Solar Energy Systems

Senior Andrew Snead is well into his second major independent study program at WMS. Next year he’ll continue his studies of engineering at Clarkson University, which has recognized his LASR Program work with a substantial merit scholarship. Read Andrew’s story here!

We first talked to Andrew about his independent study work in solar energy last fall. He had just completed building his own solar-powered iPad charger, and he was learning about wire sizing for future projects. An article about Andrew’s progress the was published in this winter’s
Echoes magazine.

More recently, we’ve seen glimpses of Andrew’s work on campus, including smaller projects like the one in the image above. The panel we spotted sitting outside the Science building last week was charging up some batteries that community members will be able to use to charge cell phones and other small devices.

Since then, Andrew has connected with ReVision Energy, a local solar energy company that presented at the school’s solar energy forum last November. Andrew, and his mentor, physics and chemistry teacher Renee Blacken, have been learning about commercial and residential solar energy systems.

Recently, Revision Energy was asked by faculty members Matthew Toms and Kathy Kohatsu and Gabe and Joanna Boisseau to develop some site recommendations for solar systems at their off-campus properties in Bethlehem. Craig at Revision Energy gave the home owners a heads up that he would be accompanied by a student and the student’s teacher, and the project came full circle when the parties realized they all already knew each other through their common White Mountain School connection.

Renee explained, “Andrew met with Craig for about an hour. Craig went over some of the things he does before he visits a site, and he had Andrew run some preliminary reports on the amount of energy available from several different size systems using a program called PV Watts published by the National Renewable Energy laboratory (NREL). Andrew showed Craig some of the things he’d been working on throughout the year, including a system sizing spreadsheet for off-grid PV systems. Craig was impressed by the depth and breadth of the work Andrew had done and encouraged Andrew to pursue the NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) certification, saying Andrew was most of the way to being prepared to sit the exam.”

At Kathy and Matthew’s home, Andrew helped Craig with a site evaluation. This included measuring the solar resource at different locations on the property using a Solmetric Suneye, a device that takes a picture of the sky and shows any obstructions that would shade the potential site for the PV array, giving a good estimate of the amount of solar radiation available at that site. They first considered a ground-mounted system, but the prevalence of tall pines in the area and the fact that the site had more shading than the roof, redirected their efforts toward a roof-mounted system. Andrew and Renee helped Matthew and Craig calculate the number of panels that would fit on the roof and whether or not they could generate the 4500kWh/year that Matthew and Kathy were hoping for.

Next they headed into the house to take a closer look at the control panels for the current electric system. They talked about the set-up and location for the new inverter and how the wiring from the panels would be brought into the house. Throughout the visit, Andrew appeared confident in his recommendations to Matthew and Kathy. We asked him later if the technical language the contractor was using seemed confusing, or if he had a good understanding of it. He responded quickly, “no problem at all, I understand it and how the systems come together.”

After the visit to Matthew and Kathy’s, Andrew, Craig, and Renee headed to Gabe and Joanna Boisseau’s apartment in the– appropriately named, Solar dormitory on campus, to talk about their plans to build a new home in Bethlehem. Andrew and Craig were there to consult the Joanna Boisseau about their plans to insure that any construction they did would be well-sited for a solar array installation. Renee added, “We looked at the house plans and did a similar calculation of maximum system size (in kW) and estimated its annual energy output. Without visiting the site, it is difficult to get an accurate measurement of the available solar radiation. However, the advantage to new construction, is that they can clear the necessary window so the array won’t be shaded, and they can site the house so the roof is oriented to be south-facing, the ideal orientation for a PV array in the northern hemisphere.”

Thank you to Andrew, Renee, and Craig for sharing your work with us!

Andrew completed a different independent study project last year in mechanical engineering. You can read about his work on that project here. Andrew will be studying engineering at Clarkson University this fall. We are proud to note that his work through the LASR Program at WMS was recognized by Clarkson with a substantial merit scholarship. Congratulations, Andrew!

To read more LASR project stories, please click here.
To learn about the LASR Program, click here.

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