UTA Parking Garage Features Solar Panels
By Office of Communication
Posted on December 27, 2012, December 27, 2012

From atop two parking garages at the University of Texas at Arlington' s College Park development, the sun beamed in a cloudless blue sky.

Such days of bright sunlight do more than warm the cross-campus commute of UTA students. They also generate power from the special solar tiles installed on top of carports housed there.

UTA officials say the carports provided a unique opportunity: they not only provide shade and protection for vehicles parked on the parking garage roofs but also serve as an ideal location to harness the blazing Texas sun.

The thousands of tiles generate enough solar energy to offset 30 percent of the development' s energy use. UTA officials said the College Park District garages are the largest carport installation of photovoltaic panels in Texas.

Nick Schroeder, UTA' s director of energy and mechanical operations, said the project was funded through a $1.8 million grant from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The university also provided $368,000 for the project. That money was recently offset by a $390,000 rebate to UTA from Oncor.

Schroeder said the panels, which are tilted to allow for rainwater run-off, are visible from the street and throughout Arlington and hold a curiosity factor for people.

"There is an educational aspect to this because people want to know more about them,' he said.

An online site monitors the energy produced by the panels and includes graphics that explain the process. Software provider Deck Monitoring runs the site, with cooperation from UTA and Meridian Solar, the contractor on the solar project. To view the site, click here.

The College Park residential and retail development, which stretches more than 20 acres along Center Street just south of Arlington City Hall, is a combined effort of the university, the City of Arlington and First Baptist Church which provided land for the parking structures. It includes a dormitory and apartments, shops and restaurants and the College Park Center arena.

The complex includes such sustainable features as low-flow plumbing, reflective roofing and paving and the use of recycled and regionally sourced building materials.

Schroeder said including environmental systems in new construction is beginning to pay off.

"With solar power, I like that it' s becoming cost-effective,' he said.

Meghna Tare, UTA' s sustainability director, said the university constantly looks for ways to save energy and protect the environment. She said she is currently working on a university sustainability report that she expects to complete this spring.

"It' s not just about being green,' she said. "It' s about finding renewable energy anywhere we can.'

The Green at College Park, an area of rolling grasses and natural landscaping at the development' s southern end, has been lauded locally and nationally for environmental elements including specialized soil, native plants and innovative design that helps the park reduce storm water runoff. It also contains a walkway made from recycled beer bottles and shade structures made from recycled metal.

"You see students eating their lunch or reading a book there,' Tare said. "It' s very rewarding.'

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