Eastern Kentucky University alumni Gary Booth (‘62) has partnered with the University to build a solar farm on-campus that will be used in a multitude of ways, including providing energy for the EKU electrical grid.
“I think it’s important that Universities lead in learning how to use alternative energy, that’s the reason for the solar farm at EKU,” said Booth
The solar farm will provide the means for professors and students to learn about alternative energy. The plan is for the new solar array to power the electrical needs of Kit Carson Commons, an EKU housing complex for single mothers which is currently under construction nearby, making it energy neutral. The solar farm will be constructed near the intersection of Lancaster Avenue and Kit Carson Drive.
The new solar farm will give EKU the largest solar capability of any college in the state. “I believe this will put EKU in the forefront of all Kentucky universities,” he said.
Booth and EKU are working on developing an expert system (artificial intelligence) that will enable the University to forecast how much solar energy will be produced up to 10 days in advance. This will pave the way for solar to be used efficiently by the EKU electrical grid.
The solar farm will also be interactive, allowing students to go online and see how the production of energy varies due to weather conditions and time of day. Booth hopes that over time the University will develop alternative energy courses focusing on the solar farm on-campus.
Booth has solar farms throughout the state. One of his favorite projects is Campton Baptist Church. The church is now completely energy neutral, thanks to solar panels that have zero carbon footprint. On earth day in 2017 The Weather Channel featured the church as the one of the most energy efficient churches in the country.
“I love that sort of thing. An ordinary church in an ordinary town in one of the poorest parts of the U.S. has one of the most energy efficient churches in the country,” said Booth. (One of Mr. Booth’s not-very-secret ambitions is to make Campton the technical center of eastern Kentucky.)
Booth worked in research and development for Procter and Gamble for 31 years before retirement. He played a role in the development of many household brands, including Pantene, Bounty, Folgers and Crest. He and his wife, Jane, have supported multiple scholarships for students studying the physical and life sciences at EKU.
The existing solar panels at EKU save the university money that can then be used for scholarships for alternative energy. This program is overseen by professor Dr. Judy Jenkins who has an extensive history in solar energy. Jenkins is the go-to professor on-campus for solar and will be involved in the upcoming solar farm.
Booth hopes all students and alumni get acquainted with and learn about alternative energy through this project. He also wants to install a sign on Lancaster that shows how much solar energy is being produced by the solar farm in real time to spark conversation throughout the county.
“Part of my ambition is to whip students into a certain amount of righteous indignation about Kentucky being the least progressive state in the union in terms of alternative energy,” said Booth.