Here Comes the Sun
About 165,000 trillion watts of solar power reach the earth all the time, and all activities on the planet utilize only a fraction of it–and yet the energy crises wages on! Seidenberg Professor Hsui-Lin Winkler, PhD, has teamed up with students for a research endeavor to explore the functionality and effectiveness of new solar panels the university installed last year. The research topic, which had initially been included as part of the Undergraduate Student-Faculty Research Initiative, was proposed by Winkler, whose previous work includes research of college campus energy consumption for a prestigious Thinkfinity grant. Naturally, the work extended to include a closer look at understanding solar energy on campus.
The solar panels were installed on the e-House of the Law School, and a “solar classroom’ on the Pleasantville Campus. The six modules on the PLV Campus classroom were donated by Con Edison to demonstrate to students how solar panels can be used effectively in a classroom. The solar PV modules installed in both locations are the same type; each can generate 235 watts per meter square. During the summer and spring months, the panels contribute half of the total energy use and less in the winter.
“We were just excited to see that we have some panels up on the roofs and provide us significant energy in the e-House and be a solar panel showcase in the solar classroom,” Winkler said.
In the wake of the Superstorm Sandy disaster that displaced many Pace students and canceled classes for days, the solar panels were an invaluable resource. Despite the power outage that affected both campuses, students were able to charge phones and computers due to the solar energy. With about 1.5 kWatts, the room comfortably provides charges for 20 to 25 students.
When questioned about the potential financial hardship of the solar panels, Winkler explained, “It would takes about 15 years for solar panels to be paid off from electricity generation alone. It can be less if some extra tax benefits were provided to purchase the solar panels. However, if we consider the reduction of CO2, which is usually not included in the estimate of benefit, the solar energy cost would be greatly reduced. “
Ongoing research could make way for more innovative energy solutions as Pace helps pave the way for university in energy conservation.