Sun Station: Solar Energy Powers New Research Facility at UC Field Station

The Court Archaeological Research Facility is the first UC building to rely on solar energy for its power.

Date: 7/16/2013 12:00:00 AM
By: Allison Stigler
Phone: (513) 556-8577

Tucked into Shaker farmland and surrounded by forests, the University of Cincinnati’s recently-opened Court Archaeological Research Facility (CARF) at the Cincinnati Center for Field Studies provides students hands-on field experience steps away from prehistoric artifacts. In doing so, the building also uses the latest technology to minimize its impact on the environment.

This technology now includes an array of 20 solar panels, making it the first UC buildings that can rely entirely on renewable energy to operate and, at times, provide electricity for other residences within the community.

When I was out there yesterday, the meter was spinning backward, which means we were putting energy back in the grid

“When I was out there yesterday, the meter was spinning backward, which means we were putting energy back in the grid,” said David Lentz, UC professor of biological sciences and executive director of UC Center for Field Studies.
The new system was designed and installed by Icon Solar and includes state of the art, American-made monocrystalline solar panels with micro inverters. The output of the solar system can be monitored via the Internet or by using an app on a smart phone. Icon Solar is located in Milford, Ohio, and has installed 200 similar solar panel arrays.
“Using the solar panels allows us to walk the talk on sustainability,” said Lentz. “During the spring and fall, we’re carbon neutral. We can use this to teach students about green buildings at work.”
Other green features of the building also support McMicken College of Arts and Sciences’ mission to be a leader in environmental issues. Architecture firm Emersion Design included heating and cooling systems that allow energy recovery and rain barrels to capture rainwater for recycling in the CARF design. All the cabinetry inside the building is recycled and refinished lab furniture, another green feature. The building also has continuous insulation, which is uncommon for wood framed structures.
UC archaeology students and members of the public can use the CARF to conduct hands-on research and store important archaeological artifacts. John and Georgia Court of the Court Family Foundation made this facility possible through donations to the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences.
“Thanks to their generous contributions, which amount to more than $1 million, many future generations of students, visiting scholars, and the public will learn about the rich archaeological resources of the Cincinnati area,” said UC Anthropology Professor Ken Tankersley. “We truly believe that education is the key to preserving these precious and non-renewable cultural resources.”
This type of education can range from kindergarten to graduate students visiting the CARF to learn about ancient burial mounds in the Ohio Valley, who made them and what they mean to us today. Students can participate in hands-on activities at the facility to enhance their understanding of the culture that lived here thousands of years ago.
Discoveries made at the archaeological field school have attracted international attention as well as attention from other major academic institutions, according to Tankersley.
“The Court family funds and a grant from the National Science Foundation helped us not only establish this facility, but build some of the sustainable features to make it truly green,” said David Lentz.

The next step for the CARF is to establish a dormitory near the Field Station site. Lentz envisions converting a nearby Shaker farm building for this use via a partnership with the Great Parks of Hamilton County. This will entice national and international visitors and scholars to stay at the site to conduct research in this historically important region.