UTSA wins $1 million for energy project involving faculty, staff, students

Solar Grant

UTSA solar energy grant team from College of Engineering and Office of Facilities

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(May 13, 2010)--The University of Texas at San Antonio, led by technical experts from the College of Engineering's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and supported by engineers and project managers from the UTSA Office of Facilities, will receive $1.08 million in Department of Energy stimulus funds distributed by the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) to install solar panels on two buildings at the UTSA Main Campus.

Led by engineering professors Brian Kelley, Mo Jamshidi and Hariharan Krishnaswami with assistance from undergraduate student Gerardo Trevino, the project will produce a wireless smart grid to monitor the energy and cost savings from utilizing the solar panels.

The solar-energy grant is one of four that will enable solar panel installations in San Antonio. The City of San Antonio, St. Philip's College and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio also received funding for solar initiatives.

"This is a big step forward for sustainability in San Antonio," said Mayor Julian Castro. "With these grants, we will multiply our solar energy production by several times as well as make real the value of renewable sources of energy to the community."

Mauli Agrawal, dean of the UTSA College of Engineering, said the grant already is building momentum for energy research at UTSA. "UTSA is committed to achieving national research status," he said. "Through energy and sustainability research, the College of Engineering is steadfast in supporting that goal."

UTSA will install the solar panels on the roofs of the University Center's recent expansion and the Support Services Building on the Main Campus. The panels are expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions up to 273,661 pounds annually, the equivalent of planting 37.2 acres of trees. They also are expected to generate 237 megawatt hours of energy, saving UTSA as much as $64,000 per year.

"The introduction of this green technology fits into UTSA's long-term energy plan by reducing annual utility costs and providing a renewable source of electricity to power UTSA facilities," said Dave Riker, UTSA associate vice president for facilities. "This will result in saving scarce operating funds for other important purposes."

CPS Energy also will participate in the UTSA solar initiative. To create opportunities for UTSA students to work on the project, $127,720 is pledged from its solar rebate program for student scholarships.

"It may be one of these very students who someday develops more efficient solar power generation technologies or solves the all-important issue of power storage, making renewable energy sources like solar PV as effective as conventional power plants in supplying our energy needs," said Bruce Evans, CPS Energy director of custom solutions delivery.

The UTSA solar energy systems are planned to be in operation by the end of next year.