The University of Texas-Pan American and TXU Energy celebrated the strengthening of their partnership with the official unveiling of two solar arrays installed on campus.
Representatives from the University, TXU Energy and community leaders gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday, Sept. 24 to dedicate the two solar arrays established on the east side of campus near the International Trade and Technology building.
TXU Energy, an Irving-based retail energy provider, has become a UTPA sponsor over the past year. The company donated 30 trees to the University last year through its Committed to Community Growth program and supported HESTEC 2009. It plans to contribute to the weeklong conference again this year.
"This marks a monumental day for us because of the partnership we have, a very important partnership, with TXU Energy," said Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, UTPA president. "This is a chance for our students to be able to see firsthand what is happening. And beyond that, not only will they be able to see but all the people during HESTEC will be able to come here and see what it is. It's a generous donation and it's a wonderful donation."
Kelli Rod, vice president of community relations for TXU Energy, said TXU is committed to educating communities about renewable energy and saw installing the arrays on UTPA's campus as a great opportunity to not only educate students, but the entire Rio Grande Valley as well.
"If you can see it and touch it and understand what the technology does, we will know what can be accomplished in the future," Rod said.
Each solar array produces 5.5 kilowatts of energy, which is used to power the lighting fixtures in the ITT building.
The arrays not only provide clean energy to the University, they also serve as learning tools. Electrical engineering students, under the direction of Dr. Jaime Ramos, professor of engineering, are incorporating the arrays in their research on solar power. And students majoring in education, as well as science and math teachers throughout the Rio Grande Valley, will participate in TXU Energy's Solar Academy later this fall to learn how to educate students about solar power and renewable energy.
Ramos and Dr. Hector Ochoa, dean of the College of Education, said the arrays provide another tool in training their students to become more prepared professionals. Roman Garcia, a junior majoring in electrical engineering said he has enjoyed the opportunity to receive hands-on experience with solar energy in the College of Engineering and Computer Science's research project.
"When I entered the University, my goal was to graduate and get a job. Now I have this ambition to invent, I want to innovate ideas," Garcia said.
Having the solar arrays on campus not only helps the University with its sustainability efforts, it also allows UTPA to educate the community about the importance of sustainability, said Marianella Franklin, UTPA's director for sustainability programs.
"It creates awareness and we're able to do the outreach that is needed to impact the entire region, not just our students, staff and faculty here, but events such as HESTEC and FESTIBA which draw so many community members," Franklin said. "It helps them understand we are a resource for sustainability.