Infrastructure Technology Institute
The Centennial Solar Panel System (CSPS), Northwestern’s first on-site renewable energy system, was recently installed on the roof of the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center, the building which houses ITI and several other departments on Northwestern’s Evanston campus.
Students from Northwestern’s Engineers for a Sustainable World and the Northwestern Sustainability Fund have been working for two years on the funding and logistics of purchasing, installing, and configuring the panels. The two student groups raised more than $117,000 from a variety of on- and off-campus sponsors and worked with many university groups, including the Northwestern’s Initiative for Sustainability and Energy and Facilities Management, to bring the project to fruition. The largest single donation was a grant of more than $65,000 from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation.
The CSPS will reduce the University’s reliance on the power grid by generating approximately 20,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year - enough to power a computer lab.
ITI’s Research Engineering Group partnered with the student groups to apply ITI’s Web-based data display technology, developed for remote structural health monitoring of bridges, to management of the solar panel system. Additionally, ITI will be able to use the rooftop installation as a test platform for new sensors and monitoring equipment destined for deployment on transportation related structures. The infrastructure available at the rooftop solar site will be especially useful for ITI’s work on solar powered wireless sensor networks.
The data made available through this cooperative effort will provide Northwestern students with a large and constantly growing source of real data for projects across many engineering disciplines. As the data set grows, ITI’s unique abilities in data display technology will allow the creation of custom Web-based tools for the management of the solar panels.