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In cooperation with the Medford Solar Project, Tufts Climate Initiative (TCI) installed two solar panels (250 Watts each) on one of Tufts’ wood-frame homes, the Fairmont House, in June 1999. The two solar panels cost Tufts $3,000 and produce about 700 kWh of electricity annually.

fairmont2.jpgThey generate enough energy to power approximately 10% of the annual electricity usage of an average household as well as prevent the release of 1,200 lbs. of carbon dioxide annually. However, since 12 students live in Fairmont House, the electricity usage is higher than the average household’s electricity use. Approximately 5% of the house’s electricity load is offset by the solar panels. The Medford Solar Project is a joint effort between the Massachusetts Electric Company and Ascension Technology, Inc. The program is supported by funds from Massachusetts Electric and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Medford Solar Project provided the university with an opportunity to test photovoltaic (PV) technology at a small scale and at a reduced price. TCI educates the Tufts community about the project and meters the electricity provided by the solar panels to determine the amount of energy and greenhouse gas emissions they offset. In addition to its value as a clean energy source, the system will demonstrate the reliability and maintenance requirements of PV panels. This knowledge will help evaluate the potential for further PV applications on campus.

What Are Photovoltaic Solar Panels?


Photovoltaic solar panels convert sunlight into electricity through a process called photovoltaic effect. Each panel is composed of many interconnected solar cells. Every solar cell consists of six layers: a metal contact, an antireflective coating, a negatively charged silicon layer, a barrier, a positively charged silicon layer, and a metal bottom layer. When sunlight hits each solar cell, it excites electrons, and triggers an electrical current.

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