Cambuses under one roof


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Officials from UI Facilities Management turned in final bids Oct. 7 for two projects to expand the Cambus maintenance facility so the entire black and gold fleet can be housed under the facility’s roof.

The base project is an 8,000-square-foot addition to the Madison Street structure that would keep about 12 buses warm and snow-free during Iowa winters. An alternative project bid includes replacing the traditional roof in the base project with a solar photovoltaic roof.

“Solar panels would actually be integrated into the panels of the roof,” said Eric Foresman, an energy engineer with the UI Facilities Management’s utilities and energy management. “They could produce enough energy in one year to power the average house for 10 [years].”

“The panels are basically a whole bunch of [silicon] beads lined up so they get light from all angles,” he added.

The project was bid under budget, and the state Board of Regents has already approved plans for the garage structure on Jan. 15 and the specialized roofing on Aug. 6, said Hugh Barry, the senior engineer for UI Facilities Management design and construction.

However, Regent President David Miles announced Thursday night all new building projects will be frozen. It was unclear as of printing if cuts would include the Cambus project.

Before the announcement, Barry told the DI construction should begin in early November, and what he called a “glorified garage” should be completed around June 15 next year.

Traditional thermal solar panels, which UI Industrial Engineering Professor Andrew Kusiak described as “lots of little magnifying glasses,” concentrate the sun’s energy to create steam that can then be used to create electricity.

Photovoltaic panels, also known as thin film, are a branch of solar technology that allows energy production to continue in cloudy weather, unlike traditional panels.

“When clouds come in the thin film keeps chugging along,” Foresman said, admitting it was “less efficient, but cheaper to produce because you can make it in rolls like newspapers.”

The inclusion of solar technology will help the UI toward a greener campus, said Elizabeth Christiansen, the director of the UI Office of Sustainability. She described the top three contributors of university greenhouse emissions as energy generated on campus through power plants, energy purchased, and transportation.

The proposed solar panels would increase the energy in the main university grid, decreasing reliance on coal-produced energy and the money spent on MidAmerican Energy bills.

Storing buses inside would also enable the incorporation of more biofuels.

“Biofuels are made out of oils,” Foresman said. “They have different freezing points. If you have a vehicle outside, the fuel would turn to Crisco. Inside you can use higher concentrations.”

However, some people on campus have reservations about using solar panels.

“When the solar panel reaches the end its life time, about 20 to 25 years down the road, what do you do with the waste?” Kusiak asked. “When it comes to possible contamination, we don’t know much about it because it is not a widely used technology.”

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