Campus News

Solar demonstration project will be installed this spring

The university is about to get a little bit greener through the implementation of renewable energy in the UGA Solar Demonstration Project.

The project will be installed on the roof of the visual arts building, currently under renovation in preparation for its newest inhabitants—the College of Environment and Design. The building is being renovated to function as a living laboratory and instructional tool that will actively teach sustainable design strategies to UGA students. This includes a demonstration of appropriate technology for on-site renewable energy generation in Georgia.

The building is scheduled to reopen for the start of fall semester.

The UGA Solar Demonstration Project will provide nearly 30,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year—about enough energy to power 90 fluorescent T8 lights for 10 hours a day or 189 laptops for 8 hours a day for an entire year—and is anticipated to pay for itself over the next two decades through reduced electricity costs.

“This project should be regarded as a pilot to explore the practical viability of solar ­energy,” said Tim Burgess, senior vice president for finance and administration. “While the energy savings the panels will produce are relatively small and the project has a somewhat extended period for payback, we believe the demonstration offers a prime opportunity for students and faculty to learn more about the potential for solar energy and consider how improved efficiencies might be achieved in the future.”

The UGA Solar Demonstration Project came about due to the effort of many UGA students, faculty and staff. A $5,000 grant secured in 2010 by the Go Green Alliance student organization with assistance from the Office of University Architects and the Office of Sustainability provided the seed money.

The remainder of the approximately $60,000 construction budget is being paid through the student green fee, a $3 per semester fee paid by students, and utility funds from the energy services department in the Physical Plant Division. Other nonfinancial support for the project has come from the Faculty of Engineering, the College of Environment and Design, the Odum School of Ecology, the Terry College of Business and the Student Government Association.

The UGA 2020 Strategic Plan calls for a reduction in energy consumption by 20 percent, the implementation of strategies to significantly reduce carbon emissions and the infusion of sustainability into formal and informal educational opportunities throughout the university.

The UGA Finance and Administration Strategic Plan 2021 further calls for improving and maintaining facilities and infrastructure to provide excellence in instruction, research and service; and enhancing UGA’s commitment to sustainability, operating as a good and responsible steward of natural resources. The UGA Solar Demonstration Project’s implementation of on-site renewable energy is one strategy toward achieving these goals.