UGA Solar Demonstration Project to be installed this spring

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia is about to get a little bit greener. This spring, the Athens campus will enjoy not only the familiar beauty of renewed life and vegetation as the season unfolds, but also the implementation of renewable energy through the UGA Solar Demonstration Project.

The project will be installed on the roof of the visual arts building, which is 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 UGA students, and utility funds from the energy services department in the UGA Physical Plant Division. Other non-financial support for the project has come from the UGA College of Engineering, College of Environment and Design, Odum School of Ecology, Terry College of Business and Student Government Association.

Once fully implemented, the project will be accessible in person and online via a virtual “building dashboard” serving as a teaching and learning tool.

“The UGA Solar Demonstration Project is a small step—but a significant one in the right direction,” said Kevin Kirsche, director of sustainability at UGA.

Chris Morehouse, the Odum School senator in the Student Government Association, agrees. “Not only as a member of SGA but also as a university student, I could not be more delighted in the approval of the solar panel project,” he said, “and SGA will continue to support efforts to make our campus more sustainable.”

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.

To learn more about sustainability initiatives at UGA, see http://www.sustainability.uga.edu/.