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Impact - Fall 2005

Renewable energy project to save money, help educate

With higher heating bills forecasted for winter and energy usage a growing concern, UDM is taking steps to be more energy efficient. A trained team of students and faculty from the College of Engineering & Science and School of Architecture recently installed seven 20-feet by 20-feet solar photovoltaic panels on the roof of the Engineering Building. The project has two objectives: to demonstrate that photovoltaic solar energy generation can be seamlessly incorporated into existing architecture and, secondly, to educate a wide-ranging target audience about the technology.

“Renewable energy sources are becoming increasingly important as oil and natural gas prices continue to rise,” says Mechanical Engineering Professor Mark Schumack, one of four principal investigators on the project. “The 10-kilowatt photovoltaic system we installed converts sunlight to electricity, producing power on both sunny and cloudy days. Electricity from the solar cells will feed directly into the Engineering Building’s electrical system, offsetting its commercial electrical consumption by about 10,000 kilowatt hours a year. This amounts to about 40 percent of the building’s lighting needs.”

In addition to Schumack, investigators are E&S Associate Dean Arthur Haman, Associate Professor of Chemistry/Biochemistry Robert Ross and Associate Professor of Architecture Will Wittig. The system was designed and made by United Solar Ovonic in Auburn Hills, Mich. The State of Michigan Energy Office issued the $53,000 grant for the system, with funds coming from the U.S. Department of Energy.

A display explaining solar photovoltaic principles and demonstrating real-time electrical power production from the array of panels will be housed in the Engineering Building lobby. A ceremony to dedicate the system is planned for the spring.