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Louisiana Tech engineering students, graduates see a bright future in solar power

Students and graduates from Louisiana Tech University’s College of Engineering and Science have teamed up with a local solar energy company to develop innovative ways of producing clean energy in homes and businesses across the country.

Louisiana Tech alumni Matthew Macaluso and Connor Beech as well as current senior engineering students are collaborating with Solar Energy Supply of West Monroe to develop a new line of solar “smart panels,” which will optimize the amount of sunlight received to each panel, effectively increasing efficiency by up to 20 percent, while reducing the effects of shading and undesirable roof angles.

“I decided to stay in north Louisiana for the green technologies,” said Macaluso.  “The focus of my senior design project was green energy technologies.  The project was successful and the opportunity presented itself to pursue a career in solar energy.  Energy demand will only increase and solar presents a sensible, economical and sustainable source of energy.”

'Smart Panels' by Solar Energy Supply

Louisiana Tech and Solar Energy Supply began collaborating in the fall of 2010 when the company presented Tech with a “dilemma” of not having ample manpower to expand upon its green ideas.  Senior engineering design students at Tech assisted Solar Energy Supply in making their green ideas a reality, designing and building of a solar panel from scratch.  The Louisiana Tech students were also able to develop a testing method to determine power output without a flash tester, which is extremely costly.

Upon the completion of the project, Solar Energy Supply and the Louisiana Tech students had created an expertly designed solar panel ready to enter the marketplace.  The “smart panel” technology they developed is a product of Nu-Cell Technologies, a sister company to Solar Energy Supply.

“It is refreshing for a university to be interested in starting a working relationship with a local business in the community that is expanding into ‘green’ energy manufacturing, with ample willingness,” said Jennifer Eppinette, director of public relations and marketing for Solar Energy Supply.

A $1.1 million “i6 Green Challenge” grant, which was recently awarded to Louisiana Tech to establish the LA_i6 Proof of Concept Center on the Louisiana Tech campus, received written support from Solar Energy Supply.  LA_i6 will be able to assist companies such as Solar Energy Supply to create new innovations and high-value service and manufacturing jobs in the green sector.

“I have been impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit that has led to the growth of SES,” said Dr. Les Guice, vice president for research and development at Louisiana Tech.  “We are so pleased that they have looked to Louisiana Tech to capitalize upon the talents of our students and innovations of our faculty.  This is the kind of partnership that really benefits our entire region.”

Jason Garsee, CEO of Nu-Cell Technologies, says developing new methods of producing solar energy is important to our region.  “If we can make and produce our own energy, we become more energy independent.  By expanding upon these new methods, we are able to not only advance a proven technology but also bring manufacturing back to Louisiana.”

These methods will continue to provide green jobs to our area and allow these technologies to be utilized to their utmost potential.  With the increasing costs of energy sources, solar is the future with its decreasing costs, high efficiencies and expanding technology.”

“From my experience, Louisiana Tech assists small businesses with services they may not be able to do for themselves whether it’s engineering or research development, media networking, or education on programs designed to help small business,” Macaluso said.  “There have been numerous start up businesses founded by Tech students and alumni alike.  Combined with the relationships developed with local companies, the value of Louisiana Tech within the community is evident.”