UGA to install Solar Demonstration Project this fall

Visual Arts Bldg-H.env
The former Visual Arts Building has been renamed the Jackson Street Building.

Athens, Ga. – This fall, the University of Georgia will add a touch of green to its Athens campus through a set of solar panels. The installation highlights renewable energy through the UGA Solar Demonstration Project.

The project will be installed on the roof of the Jackson Street Building, formerly 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’s solar panels were purchased through MAGE SOLAR USA, a Dublin, Ga., based complete system provider and producer of U.S.-assembled and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-compliant solar photovoltaic-modules.

“Since the Peach State has such a tremendous potential for solar energy, we are especially pleased that the flagship of higher education in Georgia is visibly engaging in solar,” said Joe Thomas, CEO and president of MAGE SOLAR USA. “This pilot project will not only educate students and staff about the benefits of solar but also serve as a powerful symbol that sustainability and clean energy are the main pillars of the future.”

The Jackson Street 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 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/.