Advances in solar technology may come as the result of a new electric vehicle charging station and solar panels at UT, created in partnership with the university’s West Tennessee Solar Farm.
The charging station and accompanying solar panels are being located atop the Eleventh Street Garage and are the reason for recent construction and space closures there.
Due for completion before the end of month, the location—the first on the east side of campus—will offer five spots devoted solely to electric vehicles, with seven total chargers available.
The station will be connected to the Power Electronics Laboratory in the Min H. Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building, part of the Center for Ultra-Wide-Area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks, or CURENT.
There, students working with CURENT will use information from the arrays to learn about current technologies and work on developing next-generation technology.
In addition, the West Tennessee Solar Farm will provide data from its solar array in Haywood County to the College of Engineering to teach students about the efficiencies of current power generation and to compare current and developing technologies.
“This is a great opportunity to help the environment while at the same time demonstrating some of the latest green technology,” said College of Engineering dean Wayne Davis.
The five-megawatt West Tennessee Solar Farm, one of the Southeast’s largest solar arrays, is located along Interstate 40 about fifty miles northeast of Memphis.
Online since 2012, the farm is capable of producing enough energy to power 500 homes a year. It was created through the stimulus-funded Volunteer State Solar Initiative and is owned and operated by UT.
“The purpose of the West Tennessee Solar Farm is to generate power, demonstrate new technology, and educate the public about solar power. This project with the College of Engineering is a fulfillment of those goals by offering educational opportunities to students who may one day develop solar technology of the future,” said Stacey Patterson, UT System assistant vice president and director of research partnerships for UT, who coordinated efforts between the college and the solar farm.
Revenue generated by the solar farm is funding the garage project and connecting it to the Power Electronics Laboratory.
A leading corporation in the solar energy market, Eaton, contributed the chargers—including a fast charger that can power a vehicle in one hour—as well as three inverters that help connect the solar panels to the electric grid.
“Eaton knew of our department’s interest in renewable energy, electric vehicles, and our power electronics work in CURENT,” said Leon Tolbert, head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “We needed to find a way to get these installed and to purchase several solar panels in order to create a research and education tool.”
The project will bring the total number of charging spots at UT Knoxville to seventeen and total number of chargers to nineteen, with locations on the UT agriculture campus and at the S23 staff lot at Pat Head Summitt Street and Andy Holt Avenue accounting for six spots each.