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Grant funds solar energy system for PSU’s Plaster Center

August 01, 2014 10:45AM

Thanks to a major grant from Westar Energy, solar panels will provide both energy and education at the Robert W. Plaster Center, now under construction at Pittsburg State University.

Westar announced Thursday that PSU was one of 15 Kansas entities selected for its Solar Photovoltaic Project, done in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The company said the projects will “showcase innovative plans to test the merits of solar energy under Kansas conditions and to educate students and engage the public.”

“Electricity is core to how we live, work and play, and our energy landscape is dynamic and interest in solar energy is part of that dynamic,” said Mark Ruelle, Westar Energy president and chief executive officer. “Local schools and organizations will be great partners to collect and use this information to help us and our communities better understand how solar might fit into our overall energy resources in Kansas. We hope these projects will inspire our youth to excel in math and science by providing real world application.”

Shawn Naccarato, director of government and community relations and executive director of the Center for Innovation and Business Development at PSU, said the project is an exciting one for the university because it complements the university’s ongoing sustainability efforts and enhances educational opportunities for students.

“PSU has made significant progress toward reducing its environmental imprint and this project certainly fits well with our ongoing sustainability efforts,” Naccarato said. “Additionally, this project will give students an excellent learning opportunity.”

PSU estimates that as many as 2,000 students will benefit from the use of the solar array in research and demonstration projects related to their field of study. That includes students in technology as well as those in the PSU’s bachelor of integrated studies with an emphasis in sustainability, society and resource management degree program.

The plan at PSU calls for the installation of 28 solar modules on the roof of the Plaster Center and an additional four modules on the ground. Together they are expected to generate more than 16,400 kw of power in a year. In addition to generating energy, the four panels on the ground will provide access for educational purposes. An indoor kiosk will display real-time information about the solar system’s power generation.

The total cost of the installation, paid for by Westar Energy, will be almost $80,000. Good Energy Solutions, a renewable energy company in Lawrence, Kan., will install the system.

©2014 Pittsburg State University