Renewable Energy on VCU's Ginter House

In April 2008, VCU President Eugene P. Trani, Ph.D., signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, joining more than 500 college and university presidents in addressing global warming by committing to initiatives that neutralize greenhouse gases emitted on their campuses. The commitment calls for universities to complete a comprehensive inventory of all GHG emissions on their campuses as a precursor to developing an institutional climate action plan for becoming climate-neutral and having no net GHG emissions.

In December of 2008 VCU added their first solar thermal system to the historic Ginter House, on the Monroe Park Campus. The system will reduce the building hot water CO2 emissions by 77% annually, saving 13,400 KBTU.

The Ginter house is located at 901 W. Franklin Street in Richmond, Virginia. It was completed in 1892 by Major Lewis Ginter a prominent businessman, army officer, and philanthropist in Richmond, Virginia. It was acquired by VCU in 1930 and currently houses the Provost and administrative offices.

The Ginter Houses solar thermal system is a water and food grade glycol (antifreeze) closed loop system. The mixture circulates through two solar collectors and a heat exchanger tank in a continuous cycle controlled by a differential thermostat. The system should require no maintenance other than an occasional visual inspection.

The two collectors are Solene Corona 4ft by 6ft. panels and are ballast mounted on the flat roof of the west side addition of the building. Insulated pipes run one hundred feet from the roof to the basement of the main building to connect the panels to the tank. The heat exchanger tank is made by Rheem. A Taco cartridge pump provides the proper flow rate for the collectors, and a Solene Digital Solar Control System that uses a differential thermostat completes the components.

Backup for the system is a standard fifty gallon electric hot water heater, which is adjacent to the solar tank. Since the solar heated water can reach 170 degrees a hot water temperature control regulates the water temperature to the building. If the temperature of the water in the solar storage tank that supplies hot water to the building is below 120 degrees the backup electric will raise the water temperature to 120 degrees.

The system was installed by Richmond BySolar a SWaM certified company in Richmond Virginia established in July of 2007 and is a leader in bringing renewable energy to Richmond, Virginia. Richmond BySolar is a member of the American Solar Energy Society, Midwest Renewable Energy Association and the James River Green Building Council, certified in site assessment, solar thermal, photovoltaic and radiant heating with solar experience since 1984.

For further information contact the following individuals at VCU: Jacek Ghosh [e-mail:] at Richmond BySolar: Dave Stets [e-mail:]