Ever on the cutting-edge of research and medical discovery, UTMB also is exploring a new technology that will help the university conserve energy and preserve the environment. The State Energy Conservation Office, through its Renewable Energy Demonstration Program, recently awarded $50,000 to UTMB for the installation of a photovoltaic (solar) lighting system for the parking garage on 12th and Mechanic streets.
Receiving its energy from the sun, the photovoltaic system will provide nearly 20 kilowatts of energy to the current electrical system during the daytime, helping to reduce the cost of lighting the garage during the peak hours of electricity usage.
"To provide a safe environment, all parking garages on the UTMB campus are lit 24 hours a day, so any help we can get to supplement traditional electricity is welcomed," said Dennis Bailey, facilities and operations management leader. "We're committed to lowering energy usage across the campus. This project will aid our efforts by providing supplemental and renewable energy through the year."
Although photovoltaic technology has energy storage capabilities, UTMB's new system will not. "The units with storage capabilities are much more expensive and we don't need to store energy for this application," Bailey said. "The primary purpose of this project is to explore the technology. Based on our experience with this pilot project, we may do more. Additional funding is out there."
Bailey added that the grant is funding only a portion of the project,
and photovoltaic electricity production is very expensive. Because of
that , there will not be immediate payback from this project. "it will
take some time," Bailey said. "But our objective isn't merely to save
money. We realize the beauty of renewable energy sources like solar and,
as such , are continually looking toward alternate fuels and new energy
sources for our future needs."
Construction on the new system should begin this fall. The system will use 80 -watt photovoltaic panels attached to a metal support structure on the roof of the garage. The panels will be positioned to avoid the loss of parking spaces in the garage.