Grant will allow Ole Miss center to generate electricity

By University of Mississippi

OXFORD – A renewable energy grant from the Mississippi Development Authority is helping the University of Mississippi’s Center for Manufacturing Excellence lead the way in using solar power.
When the center is complete in spring 2011, the building will feature 414 photovoltaic solar panels, making it the largest roof-mounted, solar power complex in Mississippi.
“That’s basically the entire roof,” said James Vaughan, CME interim director. “This means the lights and air conditioning will be able to run on solar power. It will generate roughly 90 kilowatts of electricity, which will be enough to run the building, minus the factory floor and equipment, of course.”
The $529,395 grant was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and the CME matched it with $176,465 from university funds.
Some of the stimulus money could be used on renewable energy sources, so the university’s grant application was written to put solar panels on the center’s roof, Vaughan said.
The center should be able to run under its own power during normal conditions and actually return power to the university’s grid, Vaughan said.
Having a solar-powered building on the historic campus is also an excellent teaching device for the center, which offers a “hands-on education in a traditional style,” he said.
“The CME provides the perfect blend of a traditional Ole Miss education and real-world experience,” Vaughan said. “We will take engineering, accounting and business students, especially those interested in renewable energy, and give them an education on solar usage.”
Once the building and roof are complete, CME students and faculty will be able to monitor the building’s energy usage and solar power generation by checking the center’s website.
The building houses a 12,000-square-foot factory floor to give students an opportunity to use the latest technology, said Ryan T. Miller, CME programs manager.
“They get to witness it, instead of just hearing about other facilities that use this type of power,” said Miller, who also serves as the center’s student recruiter. “I think that’s equally as beneficial as whatever monetary savings we will get.”
What’s more, the center will be the second Ole Miss building certified for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The certification, commonly known by the acronym LEED, is the Green Building Rating System developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.
“I don’t know of any other building on another campus of this type,” Vaughan said. “Here, students learn modern processes of manufacturing as they bring their ideas to life.”
Besides its advanced construction, the CME offers a unique educational focus for undergraduates interested in manufacturing education. The program brings together the schools of Engineering, Business Administration and Accountancy to provide students with skills involved in successful manufacturing, along with an understanding of accounting, communication, human resources, leadership, management and marketing.
The CME program officially began this fall with 27 freshmen from nine states.