Saturday Jan 28, 2023

UL leading Louisiana’s way in solar energy, other renewable technologies – The Advocate

Terrence L. Chambers holds the Donald & Janice Mosing BORSF Endowed Chair in mechanical engineering at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He directs the Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Energy Center, where the Louisiana Solar Energy Lab will be developed. Groundbreaking was Feb. 3. He discussed the program with Metro Editor Ken Stickney.

First, let’s talk about the facility, the Louisiana Solar Energy Lab, which should be complete by August. Specifically, what does the facility lend to the solar program and how will its completion allow you to serve the solar program’s intended goals?

The new laboratory and classroom building at the Louisiana Solar Energy Lab will provide a state-of-the-art indoor solar equipment testing capability, giving us the ability to conduct research on solar modules under controlled test conditions. This will complement the already extensive outdoor testing capability at the lab.

The building will also provide office and classroom space for faculty and students who will be doing the research. In addition, the new classroom will provide a very unique opportunity to teach about solar energy in the classroom and then walk right outside to the solar field to obtain hands-on experience. This will provide a unique capability to train both engineers and technicians who want to work in the solar industry.

You’ve been working to make the solar program a leader in Louisiana since 2010. Talk briefly about the history of the program and how it has led to what is happening today.

Our solar journey at UL Lafayette began in 2010, when the Energy Institute of Louisiana at UL Lafayette partnered with Cleco Power to build the Cleco Alternative Energy Center in Crowley. That project and follow-up funding allowed us to build a $10 million facility to study four types of renewable energy, including three that use bio-based waste products, such as wood chips, pecan shells, or seafood processing waste, to produce renewable bio-based versions of natural gas, coal, and methane. For the other project we built the first university-owned concentrating solar thermal power plant in the Southeast portion of the United States.

In 2016 we found a funding opportunity through Louisiana Generating for a photovoltaic project at the university. We proposed to design and build a multi-use 1.1 MW solar energy facility that would not just generate clean energy to help us meet our university sustainability goals but would also allow us to do solar energy research, education, workforce development, economic development and outreach. That project became the Louisiana Solar Energy Lab.

The UL Lafayette Solar Lab seems to complement many existing engineering minors. Which ones will work closest with the Solar Lab?

The Louisiana Solar Energy Lab directly complements the renewable energy minor in the College of Engineering.

Do you foresee another engineering degree specifically tailored to solar? Does this facility encourage that?

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In the past three years we have created six solar-related engineering courses at the senior and/or graduate level. I believe that could provide the basis for a future master’s program in renewable energy, which would be directly supported by the solar lab and the new building. Discussions are going on internally regarding that possibility, but no decision has been made yet.

Moving forward, …….


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