New solar classrooms get design upgrade

How would you paint this trailer? Show us! Download this photo, paint it yourself and upload it to the Campus Ledger Facebook page: Photo by Patti Klinge

By Julius Williams

If you find yourself cruis­ing along the south side of campus you might notice some trailers covered with solar technology. They are part of an experiment by the college’s department of energy performance and resource management, and they are about to get a color­ful upgrade.

“[The solar technology modules] were designed with the idea that everything can come down at the end of the semester,” said Dan Eberle, assistant professor of energy performance and resource management.

The modules he is talking about are the two shipping containers that will comprise the new classrooms and laboratories for the solar thermal and solar voltaic certificate programs, once construction is completed. Students enrolled in the program will be able to rebuild the equipment every se­mester. The photovoltaic equipment used in the project was funded by a grant through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The containers have solar panels on the roofs and solar space heaters on the exterior walls, all built by students in the program. Eberle said that the electricity produced by the panels could run an average-size house.

“We have solar electricity and hot water,” Eberle said. “We are entirely off-grid.”

Eberle said he believes the new classrooms will create more aware­ness of sustainability and the idea of living within our “energy means.”

“It’s possible,” Eberle said. “Folks have to live with the idea of living within your means. From a money standpoint, we learn that pretty quickly. From an energy standpoint, we haven’t come to that point. But if we live with the idea that there’s a bank account out there that we have to manage then it’s pretty easy.”

He added that it’s not really like a bank, but more like a trust fund since it doesn’t draw interest and just dwindles away.

Although the interior of the modules are still a work in progress with dust and equipment scattered throughout, the exterior will get a colorful facelift by local graffiti art­ist Eric Johnson.

Johnson is a graphic design stu­dent at the college who originally hails from Wichita, Kan. He has been doing graffiti-style artwork for 15 years and when Larry Thomas, chair of the fine arts program, ap­proached him about this opportu­nity, he said he was excited.

“My goal is to bring attention to Dan’s program,” Johnson said. “Sustainability is important and is even something that artists have to be aware of. What happens to the things we make 20 years from now?”

Although Johnson will not disclose the specifics of his design, he said he wants to create something unique for the buildings.

“Graffiti arts are some­times not the most common aesthetic,” Johnson said, “but I want to make something that is harmonious with the campus but also stands out enough to bring attention to Dan and his program.”

Timothy Lednicky, chair of the energy performance and resource management department, also praised Eb­erle’s work with the modules and looks forward to the new designs.

“I salute Dan’s work out there,” Lednicky said. “It has caught public attention. People driving by have been waking up to the program. It’s cre­ated great awareness.”

Once Johnson’s designs are ap­proved by the college, he can begin as early as the end of this month. His work can also be seen at the Loft Art Space in Lawrence where he has been a resident artist since last November.

Contact Julius Williams, staff reporter, at


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