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Center gets stimulus funds for solar panels

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.

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.

The center will be the second UM 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.

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