Monday, October 24, 2011

Solar Power Potential on the University of Texas Campus

Graduate student M. Anwar Sounny-Slitine authored a paper for the “Sustainability on the UT Campus Symposium” examining the potential of solar energy on UT campus taking into account both the social and economic barriers to its development.  The paper titled “Solar Power Potential on the University of Texas Campus” was presented at The 2nd Annual UT Campus Sustainability Symposiumsponsored by the president of the University of Texas and was featured among the most promising sustainability-related research projects and operations initiatives on UT campus.  The study is the most comprehensive solar inventory done of UT campus to date showing that “Roofspace” on UT campus has great potential to produce renewable energy through the integration of solar photovoltaic and thermal panels.  Unlike other renewable forms of energy, solar technologies can be integrated into the built environment making them one of the few options for onsite renewable energy for the University.  However, there are substantial social and economic barriers that will inhibit the University from developing the full potential of its solar energy resources.  Economically, the price of solar energy is too high in comparison to current electrical generation on campus.  Socially, the aesthetic and cultural value of the UT campus’s red clay-tiled roof space surpasses the value to be potentially gained by covering them with solar collectors.  The paper examined the potential taken into account these barriers and incorporated them into a model, which utilized Geographic Information Science (GISc) techniques of Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) along with Solar Analyst tools developed by ESRI.   This analysis demonstrates that the UT Campus has significant potential for generating solar energy, even without placement of PV arrays on its treasured red-tile roofs, but economically the price of solar energy is still too high to compete with the current highly efficient natural gas power generation.  Although extensive installation of solar panels cannot be justified solely on an economic savings basis today, the price of solar PV is dropping and solar power may be economically advantageous for the University in the near future.
The full essay and other proceeding are available on line from the Center of Sustainable Development.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Molly Polk and Maria Jose LaRota attend Student Conference on Conservation Science at the American Museum of Natural History

Molly Polk and Maria Jose LaRota
UT Geography grad students, Molly Polk and Maria Jose LaRota, were selected to attend the second annual Student Conference in Conservation Science in NYC, organized by Center for Biodiversity Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History. The conference was held over three days and gathered over 300 conservation scientists from 28 nations around the world to present, discuss and share the latest research in topics of biodiversity conservation.

Molly presented a poster entitled "Glacier Recession and Wetlands in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru" that described her recent research on the response of high Andean wetlands to shifting hydrology located in Huascaran National Park.

Maria Jose presented a talk of her Master’s thesis results, "Guild specific responses of birds to habitat fragmentation in coffee agroecosystems", where she studied the conservation role of different coffee production systems in the tropical Andes of Colombia.

SCCS-NY is a unique opportunity for those beginning their careers to present their work before established leaders in science, policy, and management. It was featured in the NY Times blog Green
More information about the conference can be found at