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The Power of One: How one endowment is changing the course of Acadiana history

In 2021, Dr. Terrance Chambers received the Donald & Janice Mosing BORSF Endowed Chair in Mechanical Engineering. This prestigious award for accomplished and tenured faculty supports his research and creative endeavors in energy efficiency, sustainable energy and solar energy.

In addition to his work as a professor and director of the Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Energy Center, he led the development of the development of the Louisiana Solar Energy Program of Excellence at University Research Park, a special project from the U.S. Department of Energy, and, most recently, a new $1.1 billion investment from First Solar, the largest solar energy manufacturer in the Western Hemisphere.

The Solar Lab

Housed at one of the largest outdoor solar testing facilities in the southeastern United States, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Solar Energy Lab, housed in Antoun Hall, is poised to have a far-reaching impact on renewable energy.

Chambers oversaw the development of the solar lab, which broke ground in February 2022. “It is one of the premier facilities in the southeastern U.S. and will solidify the University’s solar program among the best in the nation,” he said.

As a hub for solar research, technology development, instruction, training, outreach, workforce development and industry collaboration, the program supports a comprehensive approach to energy education. This includes considering future consumption needs while keeping the state’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

Solar Energy Workforce Project

In June 2023, UL Lafayette became one of 12 entities nationwide to earn a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to expand the solar energy workforce and create jobs in underrepresented communities.

The $1 million grant supports the University’s efforts to establish the Louisiana Solar Corps, a statewide solar workforce training and apprenticeship program, in collaboration with other colleges and universities, industry, government and nonprofit organizations.

Chambers, who serves as principal investigator for the project, said this initiative supports the University’s decade-long efforts to build a solar workforce training program. As a leader in energy technology, the University will play a vital role in the workforce development component, with the goal of helping the people who receive the training transition into permanent jobs.

In October, the University received $87 million in funding to create Community Resilience Hubs and lead workforce development. Part of the Hubs for Energy Resilience Operations (HERO), the initiative aims to give communities access to

electricity and other vital services during natural disasters. The grant is the largest in University history. Chambers, along with faculty researchers from the College of Engineering, are spearheading the effort.

Partnership with First Solar

First Solar, the largest solar energy manufacturer in the Western Hemisphere, is building its fifth U.S. manufacturing facility in New Iberia, La. The facility will be a $1.1 billion investment – believed to be the largest the largest single capital investment in the area’s history.

More than 700 direct, plus at least 694 indirect jobs, will result from the opening of First Solar. The company is relying on UL Lafayette graduates to fill a large portion of the jobs, as well as students for internships and facilities for testing and training. Much of the collaboration will culminate in and around the Louisiana Solar Energy Lab and will be led by Chambers.

Dr. Ramesh Kolluru, the University’s vice president for Research, Innovation and Economic Development, said, “This economic development success [is] made possible by the impactful work of our researchers like Dr. Chambers.”