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Powerhouse speaker Christopher Jarrett lectured about solar power at the University of Massachusetts

Christopher Jarrett, director of the School of Architecture at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte spoke on solar power in an open lecture last Thursday at the University of Massachusetts.

The speech took place in the campus center and was part of a lecture series given by Environmental Institute. Titled “Powerhouse,” Jarrett saw more than 60 students, faculty and others come to Room 163 for a discussion on the paradox of lightness and energy conservation.

The award-winning professor took the stage and introduced the topic of discussion: Georgia Tech’s entry into the 2007 Solar Decathlon, a competition on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Every two years, 20 universities from around the globe compete to build a solar energy powered single-family home in the event.

UMass is looking to enter the competition in the coming years and is consulting with Jarrett, who was the manager for Georgia Tech’s 2007 entry.

The project led to true interdisciplinary partnership, unprecedented on the Georgia Tech campus, Jarrett explained. He said that the interactions were so great that, eventually, the deans of each of the university’s colleges were writing checks to one another for the project.

Collaborators ranged from architectural graduate students to undergraduate biology majors. They worked together from the early stages of design to construction and fundraising all the way to students traveling and fixing the popping tires on the way to Washington, D.C. for the competition. Jarrett said that two students even chose to postpone graduation in order to finish the competition.

The Solar Decathlon was unlike most other school work, Jarrett said, calling it “a collaborative research, not just design.” It led to highly complex work that usually occurred in practice rather than education.

Jarrett showed a series of diagrams explaining the processes involved, laying the groundwork for a UMass entry into the Department of Energy-run competition.

Jarrett also briefly discussed what he called the politics of solar energy, explaining a concise history of solar power.

According to Jarrett, if the U.S. filled 100 square miles with solar panels, it would fulfill all energy needs for the entire country.

            After finishing his presentation, he fielded questions from the audience. Questions focused on the competition, regulations, team camaraderie and nanotechnology in photovoltaic solar paneling.

Sam Hayes can be reached at sdhayes@student.umass.edu

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