UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

Solar becomes electric, at one UNCG building

Photo of workers installing solar panelsOn a sunny day, the newly installed solar panels will provide not only all the power the Sports Turf Maintenance Building needs – it will provide a little bit extra for the rest of campus.

The installation of the system on June 20 marked the first photovoltaic panels at UNCG. These aren’t just heating water, as some solar panels do. This building’s panels produce, at their sunniest peak, about 3 kilowatts of power. As they were being placed on the south-facing roof last Thursday, the building was using about 2 kilowatts at any given moment, noted Johnny Watterson, who managed the project. He is UNCG’s electrical engineer in Facilities Design and Construction.

He explained the process. Light energy from the sun is converted into DC electricity, which runs to an inverter in the building. There it is changed to AC – an alternating current – which is fed into the main electrical panel for the building. And any additional power becomes part of the university’s grid, for use beyond the building.

That’s a little less energy UNCG will need from Duke Power, he explains. Plus it will serve an educational purpose for our campus.

Jorge Quintal, associate vice chancellor for facilities, has been a driving force in bringing it to fruition.

“This is the first step in UNCG’s path to developing renewable energy on campus,” Quintal says. “This is an important project not only because it contributes, although modestly, towards UNCG’s carbon neutrality – it also will serve as a learning tool for students interested in alternative energy and other sustainability issues on campus.”

Interior Architecture students and faculty were very instrumental in this project. Students in Travis Hicks and Stoel Burrowes’ 301 class spoke with Fred Patrick, director of Facilities Design & Construction, about adding proof-of-concept PV panels as well as potential locations, and IARc 412 students did further work, Hicks notes. The final decision about where to place the panels was informed by the students’ research and drawings.

Southern Energy Management installed the system. Trey McDonald, UNCG sustainability coordinator, served as a liaison between different groups involved.

Any more plans for solar energy use on campus? “We included a photovoltaic array as part of the Pedestrian Underpass project,” Quintal says. “In addition we have completed preliminary studies for solar thermal systems in two residence halls in Spartan Village Student Housing Phase I. Each of these aligns with the plans established in the UNCG Climate Action Plan.”

By Mike Harris
Photograph by Trey McDonald