Still Hall shines solar

By DaShanda Mosley

The sun will be used as a source of power with the recent addition of a row of solar panels atop Still Hall.

“This is a pilot project intended to provide a platform to conduct research and student activities,” said YouaKim AL Kalaani, assistant professor of technology.

The panel is rated to generate about 1kW of electricity, according to Kalaani.

When the panel is connected to NIU’s power grid, they will generate enough energy to power four computers or 25 40W fluorescent lights.

“I hope there will be more panels on campus,” said energy conservation advocate David Johnson-Winter. “They take the burden off of other sources such as petroleum and natural gas, which both will eventually run out. This is the first step in finding a different way to run everything. Solar is clean and doesn’t emit anything that would be of any danger to anyone.”

The cost of the row of panels was around $10,000 and the cost of installation was $4,000-$5,000. The Foundation for Environmental Education in Columbus, Ohio funded the project.

Promod Vohra, dean of the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology; Cliff Mirman, chair of the technology department; members of the NIU Physical Plant and ITS all contributed to the effort.

Even though the project is still under construction, many people see long-term benefits of the panel.

“I hope this project will raise public awareness of the importance of promoting the use of renewable energy to protect the environment,” Kalaani said.

Solar panels have the ability to power radios, lights, televisions and other electronics. Solar cells also allow an alternate way to subscribe to a high-speed Internet connection without telephone lines or cables.

Solar panels also are used in windmills, wind generators and micro-hydro generators, which all produce energy with help from the sun.

Johnson-Winter feels the cost is the main drawback, but costs of solar panels are steadily decreasing because of the declining cost of manufacturing and less-costly innovations that substitute the parts needed.

The panel is not operating yet but members of NIU’s Physical Plant are working to install it.

DeKalb now has three solar panels, which will begin to limit the county’s reliance on fossil fuels.