On the roof of Sackett Hall at our Speed School of Engineering, a 225-square-foot tracking solar panel tilts toward the sun and follows it across the sky all day. The solar tracking system, which may be the first in Kentucky, differs from other systems because it combines old solar panel technology (photovoltaic panels) with new technology (thermal elements) to improve energy efficiency.
While we use it to heat water and provide electricity for part of the building, we’re also working with the Department of Energy to assess its efficiency. Already we’ve seen that the conventional photovoltaic panels produce about 30 percent more energy by tracking the sun. That translates into an offset of about 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per month. The thermal system probably offsets even more — which is good news because materials for those panels are cheaper to produce than the silicon crystals used in the photovoltaic panels.
At Burhans Hall on our Shelby Campus, we’re also working with DOE and with the Kentucky Rural Energy Consortium to study an experimental type of solar heat pipe system that may be twice as efficient as other solar systems in places — such as Louisville — with moderate sun and cold winters.
As conventional energy sources become scarcer and costlier, the need to find cleaner, cheaper and more efficient alternatives for homes and businesses grows.
Our efforts in this area made us the logical choice to take the lead on renewable energy research. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear turned over to us the operation of the state center to promote energy research. Alumnus Henry Conn and his wife, Rebecca, have promised funding to help support it.
The Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research and Environmental Stewardship will allow us to take to the next level our search to find new and sustainable ways to provide the energy we need.
The courage to question convention.
The passion to break new ground.
The insight to champion community.
The imagination to pursue the undiscovered.
The will to achieve greatness.
The promise of a limitless future.
The people to bring it to life.
It's Happening Here.