In 2018, Design Collaborative worked alongside Statewide Federal Credit Union to design a new branch in Cleveland, Mississippi. The intent for the branch was to make it a disaster recovery site so that, in the event of a nearby catastrophe, the branch would be able to be up and running on a back-up system. However, generators can be highly expensive, ranging from $75,000 to $100,000 for this particular branch. That’s when the option of solar power became a possibility.
One of Design Collaborative’s engineers devised a study on the comparison of solar power and generator power for the branch, compared upfront costs of each, and researced how much solar it would take to power the building. It was discovered that the upfront costs of solar power would be less than generators, and the solar panels could run the building for up to three days if the main power system were to fail. Solar power could also be used on a regular basis to lower heating and electric bills -- not just in the event of a disaster.
The drawback to using solar power are the expensive batteries that are required to power the building when back-up power is needed. However, as new technology is developed, the cost of these batteries will lessen over time, and panels can be installed with the option of adding batteries later. Statewide FCU decided to pursue the solar power option, and Design Collaborative went to work designing the new branch with solar panels.
The panels were carefully installed so passersby wouldn’t notice them unless they looked closely. There were 62 panels at 365W per panel installed, and the energy not used at the branch (i.e. holidays or weekends) goes back to the grid to provide power to other utility customers. To know more about how a solar system works, check out this blog from the lead electrical engineer who worked on the branch. Solar Alternatives, the designer and contractor for the branch, also have great information about solar systems on their website here.