By Julia DiGiacomo
Solar energy has developed a significant presence as an alternative to nonrenewable energy on the University of Iowa campus and beyond. Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association President Tim Dwight will speak on the merits and current state of solar energy at 6:30 p.m. today.
The event, “Solar Power: The Second Coming or Powering the World on Solar,” will take place in 202 Iowa City Senior Center. It is sponsored by 100 Grannies for a Livable Future as part of its Barbara Schlachter Memorial Lecture Series.
Dwight is a UI alumnus, former Hawkeye and NFL football player, and solar-power advocate since 2008. He has advocated extensively for solar power legislation and wider use across Iowa. He also travels across the state to educate others on the benefits of solar energy.
“It’s always fun to get knowledgeable people who are really excited and passionate about what they do,” said Diane Delozier Lahr of 100 Grannies. “[Dwight’s] really passionate about it and knows solar is the right thing.”
Dwight said solar energy has one of the lowest costs of deliverable energies.
“[Solar power] is an endless supply of energy. It’s clean,” he said. “It’s creating lots of jobs and is a great investment for Iowa.”
Solar energy is not an entirely new concept at the UI, and it is increasingly being used on campus. Most recently, solar panels were installed on the roof of the newest annex of the Seamans Center.
“That’s a 233-panel array that produces about 65.5 kilowatts of power for the College of Engineering,” said interim Director of the UI Office of Sustainability Sara Maples.
She said there are also panels near the University Services Building that charge electric vehicles. The use of solar energy is working toward the university’s 2020 goals for a more sustainable campus. Maples said the goal is to draw 3 percent [CHECK] of all energy on campus from renewable sources, such as solar.
“As of 2016, we were at about 17.2 percent renewable energy on campus,” Maples said.
UI engineering Professor Fatima Toor is conducting research on solar cells, which, she said, have become more cost-effective.
“Panels have become very cheap. They are here for under a dollar a watt,” Toor said. “In California, solar-power generation is cheaper than your traditional power generation in terms of dollars per kilowatt hours that you see on your electricity bills.”
One team of UI students is devoting its time to designing, building, and racing a solar-powered car.
“In the future, I think we’re going to see more and more sustainable technology and sustainable ways to produce energy. Solar is going to be one of the main ones,” Solar-car team member Francisco Fidalgo said. “It’s easy, one of the cheapest, and reliable, because the sun comes up every day.”
Fidalgo said he believes solar energy has great potential, and he wishes people would be more aware of the benefits.
“We have to eliminate the natural gas and the coal,” Lahr said. “I think in Iowa, with climate changes, we have to do everything we can to save the environment.”