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Siena-Francis Solar Photovoltaic Installation

A Collaboration of the Omaha Public Power District, Nebraskans for Solar and Creighton University’s Energy Technology Program

By Anton G. Yanchilin / Edited by Dr. Andrew G. Baruth

The Siena Francis Homeless Shelter, founded in 1975, is an organization that strives to further the lives of the less fortunate men, women and children in the greater Omaha area through various means. Among these means are rehabilitation advisory groups, employment preparation, medical services, and the provision of food and shelter. Their campus includes two primary shelters, the Baright shelter for men and the Siena house for women and children. The Baright shelter houses a minimum of 222 each night, but typically houses an additional 100 men depending on the weather. The Siena house provides 40 beds per night.

Electricity costs are one factor that this organization faces while both accommodating a high volume of people and providing various services. To help mitigate this, students from the Creighton University Energy Technology Program, in collaboration with the Omaha Public Power District and Nebraskans for Solar, are designing a photovoltaic system this fall 2014. This specific group of students has extensive experience in renewable energy projects. The Baright shelter is the larger of the two primary buildings, has less shading obstructions, larger roof area, and a higher altitude. Therefore, it is the best option to house such a photovoltaic system.

The course “Introduction to Solar Energy,” created by Professor Andrew Baruth, Ph.D., has 11 students divided into three groups, each tackling the optimization for an installation design. The students, all upperclassmen, have submitted bi-weekly, structured reports detailing the requisite aspects of a typical feasibility study. With a competitive mentality, the three groups will pitch their best design ideas at the conclusion of the course to “win the bid” for the project.

The Energy Technology Program at Creighton University is designed for students interested in renewable energy from a liberal arts perspective, consistent with the Catholic Jesuit tradition. It guides incoming freshmen to be adept in the broad aspects essential to understanding renewable energy strategies and their role in society, including environmental ethics, energy policies, installation and design, as well as material science. Introduction to Solar Energy focuses on the details of designing a feasible photovoltaic installation as well as the science behind photovoltaics. This necessarily includes the creation of models to track the sun’s position from anywhere on Earth, understanding the role of solar radiation, basic semiconductor physics, as applied to solar cells, and observing good practices in system design. In the end, the students are exposed to everything they need to know to produce a complete design option. As the class has progressed, the students update their feasibility reports with the most recently learned content. As these pieces of the report come together, the students are able to see their hard work create a real-life product.

Communicating with Stormy Dean, Chief Administrative Officer for Siena Francis, the Energy Technology students have been able to visit the site to acquire accurate building dimensions, data on obstructions (shading), and a better understanding of the roof’s structural integrity. As time has progressed since the initiation of the project, the students began to incorporate other details into their assessments including, but not limited to, meteorological analyses, shading analyses, and preliminary suggestions of installation ideas to work off of for their final recommendation.

The three student groups from the class have created unique designs that will be bid upon at a forum on December 11th, 2014. Representatives from the Omaha Public Power District and Nebraskans for Solar will be present to move forward with a plan to actualize one of the designs.

Anton Yanchilin is a junior at Creighton University pursuing a double major of Energy Technology and Applied Physical Analysis. His career interests revolve around renewable energy applications, climate change mitigation policy, and the computer sciences.