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Student Life

Marshall Student Center to be solar powered

The Marshall Student Center will not reverse global warming any time soon, but it will have solar panels installed in an effort to help USF pursue a more sustainable campus.

The solar panels will arrive on the roof on Saturday, begin installation on Monday and be completed in a week. This project is possible thanks to the money from the Student Green Energy Fund, generated from the one dollar per credit hour student tuition green fee.

The fund supports sustainable projects that students, faculty or staff may submit to the Office of Sustainability.

“(Solar panels) are a feasible and essential means to reduce our fossil fuel consumption,” Jamie Trahan, a graduate student majoring in mechanical engineering, said. “Wind turbines need a lot of area and need to be in places that are uninhabited. Solar panels, you can pretty much put them anywhere.”

The 108 panels will provide144 watts of energy each, which will feed into the electrical system of the Marshall Student Center.

“Well if you have a 60 watt light bulb – a typical incandescent – that would power a few light bulbs, one of those panels,” she said.

The amorphous panels on the student center, which are silicon based, have a lower efficiency than typical crystalline panels but have a better output during inclement weather and high temperatures.

“We thought in Tampa’s conditions the Amorphous would fit pretty well,” she said.

Trahan and three other graduate students submitted the $160,000 proposal, which included a second option to add solar panels to the canopy being built over the amphitheater outside the student center.

The canopy was designed to have the panels, Trahan said, but the Marshall Student Center ran out of funds to include them.

“When we found out, we said, ‘why don’t we just ask for the money to put those panels up,’” she said. “They went ahead and moved forward getting us the funding for both of (the projects).”

The canopy installation will begin May 10 and consist of crystalline panels, which have a higher efficiency because of their absorbent small silicon crystals.

Trahan and her team proposed the solar panels because they will be visible to the student body, proving their tuition is hard at work.

“The Student Green Energy Fund only has a three year time period so after three years it has to be renewed,” she said. “And that means students have to vote on it again, and unless they see what their money is going towards, they might not do that.”

The team is working with a design group creating a kiosk to be available at the end of February in the Marshall Student Center to track and display the energy output of the panels.

“You can replace light bulbs and reduce energy consumption, but we really wanted something that was symbolic of USF’s initiative toward sustainability,” Trahan said.

Zaida Darley, program director in the Office of Sustainability, said President Judy Genshaft signed a climate action plan in the spring 2011 semester to become a more energy efficient university.

“This Student Green Energy Fund allows for USF to meet those goals to become a greener campus,” she said.

The fee generates about $800,000 a year and supplied $300,000 for the first four projects last fall semester.

“I get a lot of students that have ideas about how to make the campus greener,” she said. “Sometimes that student interest just needs a little money and back up to make those ideas happen.”

The Office of Sustainability has not received any proposals yet for this semester. This is not an issue considering 12 of the 14 submitted proposals in the fall were turned in the day of the deadline, Darley said. The deadline this semester is March 5.


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