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COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING USING SOLAR PANELS FOR ACADEMICS


The solar array on top of the Central Power Plant is providing more than just energy to our UH campus. The Cullen College of Engineering (CCE) is now taking advantage of the university’s first solar array made possible by the donation from Green Mountain Energy Company and plans to use it as a teaching tool for its students. The College collaborated with the facilities team at the plant to provide a website that gives real-time data on energy production from the panels on its Electrical and Computer Engineering website.

Badri Roysam, chair of the Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) department, is working with the Plant Operations team to incorporate the panels into the curriculum. He said the plan is to have Electrical Computer Engineering students download the data to their computers and compare the data against calculations they learn to perform from their professors in order to show students how well theory describes reality.

The new solar panel website on the ECE website displays actual data on how much electrical power is currently generated by the solar array as well as how much total power was generated for the past week, month, or lifetime of the array. Also included on the website are conversion estimations to show the solar array’s environmental benefits.

A diagram on the website also shows each numbered panel and its current status. If the panel is light blue, it is producing energy well. If it is black, it is not functioning and the operator will know it needs to be checked for repairs.

“The array is based on the latest micro inverter technology, so in addition to a roughly 20 percent better production than would be possible with the earlier inverter technology, we get an accurate indication of the working status of each single panel,” Roysam said.

The solar array consists of 88 large photovoltaic solar panels covering 2,000 square feet of the Central Power Plant roof. Savings are expected to be $.075 per kilowatt hour. Plant Operations electrical and controls team oversee daily activity and maintenance of the panels.

The University of Houston installed the solar panels thanks to a donation of $140,000 from Green Mountain Energy Company. These panels convert sunlight into electricity to reduce the university’s carbon footprint and cut energy costs.

To view the current status for the solar array, visit the Electrical and Computer Engineering website at www.ee.uh.edu.