Grant Funds Solar-Powered Energy System on Madison Avenue

May 22, 2009

        The Madison Avenue parking lot at The University of Scranton is going green.  It's not that grass will replace the asphalt surface. Rather, a new solar-powered energy system will be installed that will use renewable energy instead of electricity to power the lights and security cameras serving the parking lot.

        The photovoltaic system is made possible through a $15,000 grant from the Sustainable Energy Fund for the Solar Scholars 2008 PV Grant competition. The University of Scranton is one of just 12 colleges statewide awarded a PV Grant from this year's program.

        "This project will be a visible demonstration of solar energy at work, and will showcase the University as a leader in promoting photovoltaic solar renewable energy," said Robert Spalletta, Ph.D., professor of physics and electrical engineering.

        A team of four professors and staff members of the University developed the grant application and are serving as team leaders for the project development. The team consists of Dr. Spalletta, Argyrios Varonides, Ph.D., professor of physics and electrical engineering; James Loven, laboratory equipment manager; and Mark Murphy, assistant director of utilities and plant engineer.

        Installation of the modular system is expected to be completed during the summer. The system will not reduce the number of parking spaces in the Madison Avenue lot. With 4.8 kW DC of power, the photovoltaic system will generate more power than any of the other photovoltaic systems funded through the Sustainable Energy Fund grants. The system will be tied to the regional electric power grid so the electricity generated by sunlight can be fed into the system during the peak usage hours of the day and pulled back out during the low usage hours at night.

       "This photovoltaic system will turn the Madison Avenue parking lot in to a zero-carbon footprint on our campus," says Dr. Spalletta. "No carbon will be released into the atmosphere from the energy used to support this parking lot."

        Equally important to the photovoltaic system is the curricular component developed by the team as part of the project. An understanding of photovoltaics will be integrated into the physics and electrical engineering curriculum at the University. Specific curriculum modules, including hand-on experiences with photovoltaic hardware, will be developed for general education and major courses. The community outreach component will include service and service learning components. Students will share knowledge and equipment with area schools, industry and government organizations. The photovoltaic hardware and educational modules will also be made available to local colleges.

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