Colleges and universities have always been epicenters of progress, typically through curriculum and socially-conscious students.  

As of June 2019, Millersville University can boast progress on a whole new level: its Samuel N. and Dena M. Lombardo Welcome Center is the first building in Pennsylvania to be Zero Energy Certified by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). 

What is Zero Energy Certified?  

Zero Energy certification means that, over the course of a year, “One hundred percent of the building’s energy needs on a net annual basis must be supplied by on-site renewable energy.” 

Certification is earned based on actual performance data, and not models.  

The Lombardo Welcome Center’s Design 

The building’s unique features include:  

  • Over 500 rooftop solar panels 
  • A geothermal well field
  • Energy-efficient lighting and HVAC
  • A ground-mount solar array that tracks the sun
  • Solar glass along the rear exterior wall, capable of generating electricity 

TerraSol was brought in for the system’s complex design. Working on a brand new construction and having influence in the early planning stages was a helpful advantage.  

Robert Santoleri, VP of TerraSol, explained, “We were able to design the electrical system to accept solar. We didn’t have to do any retrofitting with already existing equipment. Everything was properly electrically sized. We were even able to ensure it was all aesthetically pleasing, by keeping conduits and wire runs interior and concealed. We were able to do all that work prior to it even being built — on blueprints, really.” 

Commitment to Sustainability and Visibility  

The Welcome Center is a testament to Millersville’s overall commitment to sustainability. According to Dr. Daniel Wubah, president of Millersville University, the school is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2040.  

As part of that commitment, it was important that the Welcome Center not just fulfill its energy goals, but that it serve as a visible example of what’s possible in solar energy.  

That’s why, while most of the panels are on the rooftop, the dual-axis tracker was installed on the lawn, and PV glass was used in lieu of windows on the south façade to reach the school’s desired kilowatt count. 

The Results 

  • From 2018 to 2019, the Lombardo Welcome Center generated 204,391 kWh of electricity: 75% more energy than it used.  
  • It achieved an energy use intensity of 25 kBtu/square foot/year. That’s 70% more efficient than the average university building at 84.3 kBtu/sf/year.  
  • The Center saw these results in spite of 2018 being one of the wettest years on record. Sustainability director Chris Steuer noted that even on the second coldest day of the year, it still generated more energy (576 kWh) than it used (555 kWh) – “because the day had clear blue skies allowing plenty of light to hit the array.” 

In addition to earning the Zero Energy Designation, the Lombardo’s Welcome Center’s performance makes it one of the top five most positive energy ILFI-certified buildings in the U.S.  

Following the success of the Welcome Center, TerraSol is eager to help more schools fulfill renewable energy goals.  

“We hope that Millersville becomes a model for what other schools should be doing,” Santoleri said. “Ultimately, what we all want in the solar industry is educated young people who are interested in continuing the important work of sustainable energy. What better way to achieve it than by setting examples at universities?”