Solar panels support strides toward sustainability

Posted on January 20, 2013

The University of Georgia is headed towards a more sustainable campus environment.

In August 2012, the College of Environment and Design moved to its new location on Jackson Street, and with the new building came new renovations. The college added 72 solar panels on its roof as a new source of sustainable energy.

Kevin Kirsche, the director of sustainability in the Office of Sustainability, said the solar panels have been doing great since they have been added to the new building.

“The solar panels are an excellent demonstration of how we can use technology to harvest energy from the sun,” Kirsche said.

Alfie Vick, an associate professor at the College of Environment and Design, said that the solar panels have been a good source of energy for the college.

“I understand that the solar panels are producing about 30 percent of the energy use for the building,” Vick said.

Kirsche said sustainable energy is energy that isn’t based solely on a fossil fuel-based economy.

“It generates energy in ways that are cost effective and doesn’t have to cause harm to the environment and us since we are living in this environment,” Kirsche said.

Vick said sustainable energy is a step in the right direction at the University.

“I think it’s imperative that we become better stewards of the resources we depend on,” Vick said. “And sustainability in rebuilding is one way to achieve that.”

The solar panels are connected to the building dashboard, so everyone can go in and see the energy production of the solar panels at any given moment, Vick said.

“I think the panels are are an example of renewable energy on campus, and something visible that everyone can see as they walk down Jackson Street,” Vick said.

The academic history of the College of Environment Design was supported by the solar panels, Kirsche said.

“Students are learning to design a physically-built environment that will reduce the negative impact on the natural environment,” Kirsche said.

Mary Alexander, a junior landscape architecture major from Cleveland, said she agreed the solar panels reflect the the goals of the College of Environment and Design.

“The college always strives to be more sustainable and the solar panels are just one example of that,” Alexander said. “In the future, I think the solar panels will influence the University to become more green.”

The solar panels were purchased through MAGE SOLAR USA, a producer of U.S.-assembled and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-compliant solar photovoltaic-modules, according to a previous Red & Black article.

“The solar panels generate approximately 30,000 kilowatt hours of electricity over the course of the year,” Kirsche said. “That’s equivalent to 189 laptops operating all day every day.”

Kirsche said it will take less than 20 years to pay back the investment that was made on the solar panels.

“As long as there is a sun in the sky, there is energy being generated,” Kirsche said.