UWG will make a significant investment in renewable energy by adding solar panels to the roof plaza of the TLC building later this semester.
While this ambitious project will be a major leap forward, it is not UWG’s first venture into solar energy.
“The idea of solar has been in our plans for a long time,” said Brendan Bowen, Associate Vice President of Campus Planning and Facilities. “We did have a small solar installation a couple years ago. We put a cooling tower on the roof of the Humanities building, which is part of the air conditioning system. It has a solar panel on it that helps offset the energy used by the air conditioning system.”
The TLC solar addition will be a much larger project and will also function as a way to improve an under-used academic area on campus. The solar panels will double as a shade structure, providing about 1000 square feet of shade to the TLC roof plaza. This covers just over one third of the deck, offering protection from the sun and making the area more habitable during the hotter months of the year.
“The solar panels will produce 17 kilowatts of electric power, which is about two to three homes worth of power,” said Bowen. “And that’s just under 10 percent of the total amount of power that the building uses. So, this project will help reduce the operational cost of the TLC building.”
There are also plans to add an electronic dashboard to the lobby of the TLC that will display how much energy the solar panels are providing and how much money they are helping the University save.
Students will be able to witness construction of this project begin later in the semester.
“We have plans right now to load the materials on to the roof of the TLC building over Fall Break, because it does involve a crane and we want to be safe,” said Bowen. “Once everything is up there, it should take us about six to eight weeks to assemble everything and get it operational. So, hopefully before the end of the semester, we’ll have the system running and producing some energy for us.”
While the finished product may not be available to students for months, and the payoff of solar energy may not be seen for several years, the University still views this investment as a major step forward for the future.
“Solar is a way we can add to our portfolio of sustainable practices,” said Bowen. “We think, as a university, we have a responsibility to educate the next generation on the importance of sustainable energy and of a diverse energy portfolio. We get all of our power from one place, the electric company. But, it’s always good practice to expand that and have more than one source for your energy.”