Touring the UL Lafayette Solar PART Lab

After I wrote a few weeks back about the UL Office of Sustainability hosting a day dedicated to panels on sustainability efforts, I decided to sign up to attend the final session of the day. It focused on the construction and usage of UL Lafayette's Solar PART Lab and included a field trip to the lab.

The Photovoltaic Applied Research and Testing lab uses three kinds of solar panels and collects solar energy that is processed and fed into UL Lafayette's power grid. The solar lab helps to provide energy to UL Lafayette's south campus and Cajun Field, and it's estimated that it generates up to 20% of the power needed, around 1.1 megawatts. For the university as a whole, the solar lab provides about 3% of the power needed.

I loved getting to visit the lab and check out the rows of panels up close, in addition to hearing about the lab and its impact from one of the project's leaders, Dr. Terry Chambers.

Having the three types of panels (polycrystalline, monocrystalline and thin film) allows students and workers to test which ones work the best in Louisiana's climate.

It's just part of research being done through the lab. Its four purposes are to make power and offset costs for the university, serve as an applied research and testing lab, assist with workforce and economic development for the community and provide education and outreach.

Dr. Chambers says the lab and its collected solar power saves the university about $10,000 a month on their electricity bill.

He also noted that some of the lab's solar panels were manufactured in Mississippi and noted how the production of panels and infrastructure could be a viable industry and source of jobs for Louisiana as well.

After our visit to the solar lab, our group made the short trip over to Cajun Field to check out the newest feature: an electric vehicle charging station! The station is not yet open for drivers to use, but should be soon. The charging station can accommodate two EVs at a time and has the spaces marked off with green paint.

It's the first public EV charging station within Lafayette's city limits and will join the two other regional charging stations in Scott and Breaux Bridge. It's estimated that there are around 250 EVs in the Lafayette area, and hopefully, the introduction of public charging stations will help that number to increase in the coming years.

One fact I found especially interesting is that the charging station's location at Cajun Field allows some of its electricity to come from the solar lab. Essentially, you can charge your EV during the day with electricity provided by the sun thanks to the innovation by UL Lafayette, and that's pretty amazing.

The charging station is not yet operational, but it should be available soon for EV drivers to utilize.

It's great to see the work the UL Lafayette Office of Sustainability is doing to make the campus innovative and progressive in the realm of sustainability. These efforts, and the office's collaboration with all different departments on campus, help to ensure that students of the future will have an eco-friendly university to attend and community to live in. More of this, please!

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