Photovoltaic Applied Research and Testing Laboratory

June 20, 2016 by Jeff Shepard

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Louisiana Generating LLC, a subsidiary of NRG Energy, Inc., have signed an agreement for the construction and operation of a $5 million solar project on campus. The Photovoltaic Applied Research and Testing Laboratory will be located on about five acres in the northeastern portion of University Research Park, near Eraste Landry Road.

Dr. Terry Chambers, an associate professor of mechanical engineering who is leading the project, said it will be used to evaluate emerging solar technologies. “At the same time, it’s a power generator. Essentially, we’re building our own renewable power plant on campus,” he said.

The PART Lab will give students training in the field of alternative energy, reduce the University’s net fossil-fueled energy consumption by up to 10 percent, and offset air emissions like sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and greenhouse gases. NRG is funding the entire solar project, which will be owned and operated by the University. Construction is expected to take less than a year.

Dr. Mark Zappi, dean of UL Lafayette’s College of Engineering and director of the Energy Institute of Louisiana, said the state-of-the-art PART Lab “represents how industry, university, and government partnerships can be leveraged to better position Louisiana as the energy state for the United States. It will further entrench UL Lafayette as a key national player in the alternative energy development and applications arena.”

Chambers is also director of the University’s Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Energy. He said the PART Lab “will provide Louisiana-specific performance and price information regarding the use of various solar technologies in Louisiana.”

“In addition, since this lab will be the largest renewable energy project ever installed in Lafayette, and one of the largest solar projects ever in the state, it will provide valuable information regarding the proper way to integrate a large renewable energy project into an existing power grid. Information and experience gained from this project will be disseminated to the public to further the development of commercial-scale use of solar technology in Louisiana in the future.”

NRG will also fund an endowment at the UL Lafayette Foundation that will enable the University to operate and maintain the system to ensure clean power generation for at least 25 years.

“This project is a powerful demonstration of how one solar energy project can provide multiple and far-reaching benefits in Louisiana – reducing energy costs for the University, abating emissions, and providing valuable opportunities to advance solar energy research,” said Jennifer Vosburg, president of Louisiana Generating and senior vice president of NRG. “We are proud to work with the UL Lafayette on such an impactful project.”