Solar panels smallStudents at UAB will now have the opportunity to learn about solar energy through the panels recently installed on the Campus Recreation Center. The project, led by UAB Sustainability, includes approximately 112 panels placed on the southeast corner of the building. As a result, the Campus Recreation Center will be able to reduce its electricity costs during daytime hours.

“We are the largest single site employer and one of the largest power users in Alabama, and the largest contributor to the local economy,” said Julie Price, Coordinator of UAB Sustainability. “Our demonstration project will be good for not only those who work or learn at UAB, but also community members and business partners.”

Students in mechanical and electrical engineering will be able to incorporate the data pulled from the system into their classes. A dashboard screen will be placed in the lobby of the recreational center to engage students, staff, and visitors with information about the system’s production versus total building usage, and details from the on-site weather station. The system itself is visible from the upper floors of many buildings around the Campus Recreation Center and on the side of Red Mountain.

The Facilities Division will also make use of the solar panels by determining the economic impact it could have as part of their utility portfolio.

“Our campus environment, with strong support from UAB Facilities, offers opportunities to incubate new technologies, monitor performance, and engage students and staff in sustainable buildings and land use,” Price said.

UAB is working with Vulcan Solar Power, a small Birmingham-based business, to install the panels. The solar panel project is estimated to generate approximated $600 per month in utility savings for the university.

This is not the first solar project at UAB, as UAB Energy Management installed 8 panels in 2008 to charge electric GEM cars for Facilities employees to circulate on campus emissions-free. UAB Sustainability also installed ConnecTable solar charging stations in front of the Hill Student Center on University Boulevard and for charging phones and laptops outdoors while seated at the tables.

“The Rec Center project is a commercial-scale solar panel installation that will pair well with UAB’s entry into the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon to build a solar-powered home,” Price said. “These two projects will provide comparative examples of solar implementation for curriculum, research, and engagement on campus and in the community.” The solar panel installation was completed in early August, and the system will be fully functional by the start of the fall semester.