Green Around Acadiana | UL Lafayette Solar Lab

Over the past few months, five acres of land have been transforming into something unique for Lafayette. Just off Cajundome Boulevard and Eraste Landry, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has been building a 1.1 megawatt solar panel farm and research lab as part of its Research Park.

Construction is very near completion, and the lab is expecting to begin operating this month.

Photo credit: Simon Mahan

The Photovoltaic Applied Research and Testing (PART) Laboratory is a collaboration between UL Lafayette and Louisiana Generating, LLC. and will be the largest renewable energy project ever installed in Lafayette, and one of the largest solar projects ever in the state. 

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Project Lead Dr. Terry Chambers says the lab will be used to evaluate emerging solar technologies, give students field training, and generate power to the UL Lafayette campus.

Photo credit: Simon Mahan

"We’re actually going to use this as an applied research and testing lab. So we'll have both graduate students and undergraduate students out here studying how various solar technologies work in Louisiana. That will help train them to be the next generation of renewable energy engineers,” Dr. Chambers told KLFY earlier this month.

Dr. Terry Chambers (Photo credit: Simon Mahan)

The lab will reduce UL Lafayette's energy consumption by up to 10 percent, making it one of the only universities in the country to utilize its solar energy research lab to offset its fossil-fueled energy consumption and air emissions.

Photo credit: Daniel Hayes

Through the photovoltaic panels, energy is converted directly into electricity after passing through the positive-and-negatively charged material that make up the panels.

The energy being collected and stored by the PART Lab will be used to power the majority of UL Lafayette's sports complex, which consumes about 1.2 megawatts of energy.

Photo credit: Simon Mahan

I've driven by the project site occasionally over the past few months and have enjoyed seeing the construction progress. It's motivating to see UL Lafayette investing in a solar research lab like this, in addition to their START Lab out in Crowley. I'm very interested in learning how the PART Lab impacts overall utility usage on campus and at the athletic facilities after a year or so has gone by.


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