Mercer University engineering students are helping low-income homeowners save money and conserve energy by installing solar power systems on five Macon homes.
The solar photovoltaic systems, which homeowners can monitor using an app, will produce enough energy to cover 75% to 100% of each home’s daily needs, reducing the monthly power bill, said Dr. Michael MacCarthy, associate professor of environmental and civil engineering and director of the engineering for development program.
“Homeowners can see directly how much energy is being produced, and then they can compare that to how much they’re using,” Dr. MacCarthy said. “Just the fact that the homeowners are paying attention to electricity production and electricity consumption, it could lead to additional savings through improved energy conservation habits.”
The current program is part of a student-led initiative that started about five years ago with a senior design project and funding from Mercer’s Research That Reaches Out initiative. Students were discussing ways to make environmental improvements at the household level in Middle Georgia and began looking at solar photovoltaic systems, Dr. MacCarthy said.
“Talking to various people, a lot of people in the area still had the impression that … you had to pay $15,000-$20,000 to a specialized engineering or construction company to install a huge system that would provide most, if not all, of the electrical power to your house,” he said. “And we wanted to change that thinking.”