Santa Fe College, a leader in innovation in education, unveiled a new outdoor learning lab yesterday that serves as a catalyst for renewable energy education. The REAL Lab (Renewable Energy Accessible Lab) was designed to help instructors in math, natural sciences and building construction teach their students about different types of solar energy systems.
“This transformative, instructional tool will serve as a working model where students can learn hands-on about sustainability—something that is very important to us at Santa Fe,” said SF President Dr. Jackson N. Sasser.
Unlike the solar panels SF installed atop buildings across campus for energy efficiency and cost savings, the REAL Lab was designed specifically with student learning in mind.
Bill Reese, associate vice president of facilities, described the state-of-the-art lab as the first of its kind. The lab combines three types of solar energy collectors at ground level, making it easily accessible for teaching and training. Reese was instrumental in advocating for the construction of the learning lab.
“I don’t know of another renewable energy teaching lab of this size in the Southeast, so we had no model to go on,” Reese said. “We sourced elements from around the country and Canada to make this happen.”
Reese went on to explain how the REAL Lab’s parabolic trough solar energy system, which tracks the arc of the sun throughout the day based on time, can be more energy efficient than photovoltaic solar panels. Parabolic trough systems are not as widely used as photovoltaic systems for solar energy, but as more systems are installed, the cost will come down and parabolic systems will likely become commonplace.
Santa Fe College has placed itself ahead of the game by training our students on this ground-breaking renewable energy platform. By looking forward to advanced technologies, we are preparing our students for the future, today.