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 Montpelier Magazine

Catching a few rays

Solar panels provide study opportunities

STUDENTS WHO TALK about "catching a few rays" may not be basking on the Quad. Several integrated science and technology majors are helping with the university's first solar panel project.

Solar panels - 225 of them installed last fall near the College of Integrated

Science and Technology - are helping power the ISAT building and providing study opportunities for students.

"The solar power is converted into electricity, and the power source is then channeled into the ISAT/CS building," says ISAT professor Jonathan Miles. "There are not enough panels to power the entire building, but the panels contribute about 10,000 watts of power. With regular maintenance and inspections, they should last at least 20 years; and if funding becomes

available, we can always up-grade the system. Students in-volved in this project have contributed to create a technical solution that has very little negative environmental impact and in the process have created a valuable teaching tool for JMU.

"The photovoltaic system project was very much a team effort," Miles says. "Several ISAT faculty members [in-cluding engineering manager David Mars] began looking at this kind of project several years ago, and a number of students contributed through their senior projects and their thesis activities."

Students worked on everything from design, generation of drawings, technical calculations and economic analyses. "JMU's facilities management staff has also been in-strumental to the design and construction," adds Miles.

A total of 15 structures were installed with 15 panels each. And Miles says that the design and location of the panels allows for the possible future installation of an additional six structures or 90 panels.

Rob Holmes & Co. supervised the project and built the solar panels. The $120,000 project was funded mainly by the university and supported by a grant from the Virginia Alliance for Solar Electricity. The VASE program is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and Virginia's Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.