Solar panel installation at Arlington research center is laboratory for graduate engineering students
A solar photovoltaic system on the roof of the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington is serving a three-fold purpose: It contributes to the LEED credentials of the 144,000-square-foot, seven-story building; lowers energy costs; and benefits graduate education by serving as a laboratory for engineering students.
“We are able to collect data about solar radiation, wind speed, and ambient and solar panel temperatures that allows us to create mathematical models for solar panel performance under various weather conditions and seasons. From this we can determine how much power can be generated from a certain number of solar panels in similar climates,” said Saifur Rahman, the Joseph R. Loring Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute.
Rahman supervised the overall design and coordination of the solar photovoltaic system installed by the Center for Energy and Global Environment, within the institute.
“This project is an excellent way for our students to learn about the benefits of solar and wind power and how they can apply this technology to real-world situations,” said Rahman.
The 6.44 kilowatts system, online since Feb. 23, 2012, has fed more than 15,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity to the building and saved about $1,100 in energy costs, according to Rahman.
Yonael Teklu, energy systems and information technology specialist at the Advanced Research Institute, manages the technical, engineering, and implementation aspects of the solar photovoltaic system. Teklu also designed and installed the data logging and monitoring system for the installation.
Northeast Construction Inc. of Richmond, Va., was the contractor and LG USA contributed the solar photovoltaic modules for the roof installation.
A website has been posted to track performance of the solar photovoltaic system. More technical details about the system can also be found on the website.