Evergy invests in WSU's electrical engineering program with solar panel initiative

  • In February 2020, Evergy invested in three initiatives that add valuable assets and opportunity to Wichita State's College of Engineering Program.
  • The Solar Panel Initiative provides funds and resources for the installation of solar panels on the roof of the John Bardo Center.

In 1987, Evergy partnered with Wichita State University’s College of Engineering. In February 2020, Evergy built on that relationship by investing $150,000 in an initiative that adds valuable assets and opportunity to the program.

Evergy’s investment includes supplies and training for the installation of solar panels on the roof of the John Bardo Center. The initiative not only will help provide clean energy to the building, but it also represents an impressive, applied learning and fundamental research opportunities for students.

“We will have eight different configurations of solar panels that allow us to measure different behaviors and how they affect energy production,” said Visvakumar Aravinthan, associate professor and associate department chair of the electrical engineering and computer science departments.

The solar panel initiative also included several pieces of machinery that will allow Wichita State to gather and analyze solar energy production and utilization data.

The RTDS Novacor is a state-of-the-art power system simulator. The simulator’s hardware and all-in-one software have the capability to perform real-time analysis on complex power networks with renewable resources. The College of Engineering supplemented the purchase of the RTDS Novacor.

The installation process was delayed due to COVID-19, but Visvakumar believes the project will be completed by end of the year.

How the solar panels will be used

The solar panels will be used to teach students and give them hands-on experience with industrial equipment.

“We want them to be able to analyze the data and develop solutions,” said Visvakumar.

Arun Kaarthick Manoharan, a Ph.D. student in EECS department, uses the solar panels to develop techniques for increasing the utilization of renewable energy resources.

“We are working on a test system that will help us determine the feasibility of secure and sustainable electricity production,” Arun said.

Visvakumar sees this solar panel initiative as an opportunity to highlight the importance of electrical engineering.

“We want to be able to show engineers why electrical engineering matters,” said Visvakumar.

The Results

The solar panel initiative will assist in equipping the next generation of electrical engineers to go into the workforce and be successful.

“We want to produce students who Evergy can hire,” Visvakumar said. “We have been successful so far.”

One of the greatest challenges engineers face is how to create clean, renewable forms of energy. Visvakumar says this challenge affects all people, not just engineers, and should be a problem we work together to solve.

The energy generated from the solar panels is pumped into a section of John Bardo Center. On average, solar panels generate 2.5% of the total John Bardo Center load.

“We need to come together as a community and create solutions to these kinds of problems,” Visvakumar said.

For more information, email Visvakumar at visvakumar.aravinthan@wichita.edu.