Solar farm at EKU goes online 

Contributed photo 

A new solar farm at Kit Carson Commons has gone online to help power 40 homes for a year and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1%. 

An electrical grid and solar farm on Eastern Kentucky University’s campus is now online and running, and has the capability to power 40 homes for a year.

According to officials at the university, this size solar farm is the first of its kind at a public university in Kentucky.

“I am proud our university is doing something like this in terms of solar energy and sustainability,” said EKU chemistry professor, Judy Jenkins.

Jenkins is one of several EKU professors who will be able to utilize the farm as a way for students to learn about alternative energy, according to the university.

“The plan is for the new solar array to power the electrical needs of Kit Carson Commons, an EKU housing complex for single mothers which is currently under construction nearby, making it energy neutral,” a release from EKU stated. “The solar farm will be constructed near the intersection of Lancaster Avenue and Kit Carson Drive.”

Jenkins told The Register she helped a lot in the brainstorm and design phase — which began several years ago — and explained to administrators how solar can make things possible for the university and its students.

She said students can use the data and track the energy of each solar panel to study the effects of weather and light have on how much energy is expended.

With the new solar farm array, Jenkins said it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1%.

“That is real, and that puts a dent in energy use and offsets carbon dioxide,” she said. “To be able to take a full percent off is huge, and it is hard to do. So we are really excited about that.”

She stated the solar farm was done in efforts with Eastern Kentucky University alumni Gary Booth (‘62), who has worked with solar energy prior, as well as for research and development of Proctor and Gamble for over 30 years.

With the help of Booth, EKU has developed an expert system (artificial intelligence) which will enable the university to forecast how much solar energy will be produced up to 10 days in advance, paving the way for solar to be used efficiently by the EKU electrical grid.

“(Booth) was hugely instrumental in helping us see the possibilities on how we can get more solar energy on campus,” Jenkins said. “He gave us an interesting way to get it up and operating and he has been a huge example of what it means to be an alum, and how he challenges us to think creatively to accomplish things that we didn’t think we could do.”

Jenkins said this solar farm is just one more way that people can use their land and resources to make a better quality of life for those at EKU and throughout the commonwealth.

“I think one of Kentucky's strongest strengths is making use of the land and resources,” she said. “We have so much sunlight that can be put to use and this is one more way we can use the land to make our lives better.”

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Reach Taylor Six at 624-6695 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.

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