Department of Geography and the Environment

Solar Power Potential on the University of Texas Campus

Fri, October 21, 2011
Solar Power Potential on the University of Texas Campus
The University of Texas at Austin first Solar Photo voltaic installation on the main campus, installed as shading devices on the top of Manor Parking Garage (Image Source: Fred C. Beach, Ph.D.)

Graduate student M. Anwar Sounny-Slitine authored a paper for the “Sustainability on the UT Campus Symposium” examining the potential of solar energy on UT campus taking into account both the social and economic barriers to its development.  The paper titled “Solar Power Potential on the University of Texas Campus” was presented at The 2nd Annual UT Campus Sustainability Symposium sponsored by the president of the University of Texas and was featured among the most promising sustainability-related research projects and operations initiatives on UT campus.  The study is the most comprehensive solar inventory done of UT campus to date showing that “Roofspace” on UT campus has great potential to produce renewable energy through the integration of solar photovoltaic and thermal panels.  Unlike other renewable forms of energy, solar technologies can be integrated into the built environment making them one of the few options for onsite renewable energy for the University.  However, there are substantial social and economic barriers that will inhibit the University from developing the full potential of its solar energy resources.  Economically, the price of solar energy is too high in comparison to current electrical generation on campus.  Socially, the aesthetic and cultural value of the UT campus’s red clay-tiled roof space surpasses the value to be potentially gained by covering them with solar collectors.  The paper examined the potential taken into account these barriers and incorporated them into a model, which utilized Geographic Information Science (GISc) techniques of Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) along with Solar Analyst tools developed by ESRI.   This analysis demonstrates that the UT Campus has significant potential for generating solar energy, even without placement of PV arrays on its treasured red-tile roofs, but economically the price of solar energy is still too high to compete with the current highly efficient natural gas power generation.  Although extensive installation of solar panels cannot be justified solely on an economic savings basis today, the price of solar PV is dropping and solar power may be economically advantageous for the University in the near future.

The full essay and other proceeding are available on line from the Center of Sustainable Development.


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