Industrial Engineering Professor Promotes Solar Energy

 Dr. Earnest Fant, associate professor of industrial engineering, is teaching students and members of the community how to get the most from the sun's energy. Fant has designed solar panel platforms that can be tilted to optimize the amount of solar energy they absorb, and solar arrays based on his design can be installed using materials found at local hardware stores.

In the spring semester each year Fant teaches a class about the feasibility and economics of renewable energies. When he realized that students were interested in using direct solar energy, Fant also developed the Photovoltaic Array Seminar, which he teaches every two to three months throughout the year. Participants are introduced to micro-inverter technology used in solar modules, and they learn about implementing net metering and take a tour of a local hardware store to locate the materials they need to build an array platform.

They also travel to Fant's home, where a stand-alone, three-panel solar array produces 40-70 kilowatt hours a month, right in his own backyard. At the end of the seminar, participants have the knowledge and skills to set up solar arrays and connect them to the electrical grid for net metering.

Fant has helped former Fayetteville mayor Dan Coody design the installation of 32 solar panels on the roof of his new home, and recently, a presentation he made inspired an instructor of renewable energy technologies at the East Arkansas Community College in Forrest City to set up an eight-panel solar array for the college.

Release date: 5/4/2011