By Irene Burgo
In September, four graduate electrical engineering students witnessed the culmination of one year of intensive research and development as 24 solar panels were installed on the external parapet of the south roof of CEER. The students were part of Solar Scholars, a program that offers opportunity for in-depth, hands-on study, training and research in applying solar technology. For the Solar Scholars program, Villanova has partnered with the Sustainable Energy Fund (SEF) of Central Eastern Pennsylvania, as part of a six-college coalition in this solar-energy initiative. The effort is also part of the Villanova’s effort to establish a climate-neutral campus – the President’s Climate Commitment.
The student engineers worked under the direction of Dr. Pritpal Singh, professor and chair of electrical and computer engineering, conducting research on solar energy. Some of this research has been performed through the Villanova Center for the Environment (VCE), which includes sustainable solar energy as one of its focus areas. This research concentrated on optimizing the location of solar panels to maximize the solar energy output from the panels. The solar panels on CEER are the first of their kind on campus and are part of a continuing effort to develop renewable energy sources.
“The solar panels are the first of many renewable energy systems on campus and we’re proposing to expand the system,” said Dr. Singh. “The advantage is that the solar panels do offset some of the conventional utility power that is provided to CEER, saving energy and money,” said Dr. Singh.
The solar panels were installed by the University Facilities Office, working with Singh, who engaged the services of Finley Shapiro, a local solar energy consultant and installer, who served as an advisor on this project.
An active group of students and faculty members, including Dr. Singh, are working on the next generation of renewable energy sources that will offer higher performance at lower-cost. The College now offers a multi-disciplinary certificate program on sustainable energy, and Dr. Singh is teaching a course on renewable energy systems as part of that program.
This semester, a new group of undergraduate electrical and computer engineering students is working under Dr. Singh’s direction to develop a measurement display that will be installed in the CEER lobby later this fall. The display will provide details on the amount of energy currently being saved by the solar panels. On Friday, November 16, a reception and official unveiling ceremony will mark the beginning of the solar power initiative.