Update March 4, 2022: Congratulations to 3rd-year Cassie Deering who won our LOTL contest. Cassie's idea is to have the solar micro-grid power electric stoves on the Lawn.

"I had this image of someone frying eggs on the Lawn, and I thought, ‘Man, that’s perfect!’ If solar energy can power pretty much anything, why not make it power a stove? Plus, some of my favorite times at UVA have been around a firepit, roasting marshmallows and connecting with friends. The communal Solar Stove. Bring your own skillet!"  

Oluwamisayo Ologun received an honorable mention for his idea to power street lights in areas on Grounds or nearby community where additional lighting is needed for safety. 

Thanks to all of the 85 (!) people who submitted ideas! Stay tuned ... the Office for Sustainability is working with the Cville Solar Project and staff in Facilities Management to potentially implement Cassie's idea.  

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The 20th annual Lighting of the Lawn on Monday glowed with yellow, red, purple and white lights – mostly powered with green energy.

Since 2018, a 1,300-watt solar “micro-grid” of four photovoltaic panels and a battery has helped power the festive lights. The effort is managed by the Cville Solar Project, a student group, with support from the Office for Sustainability.  

“It’s been a privilege to come alongside our peers to help produce something as iconic as Lighting of the Lawn,” says Adam O’Neill, president of the Cville Solar Project. “All the support we’ve gotten illustrates this University’s passion for a better future while remembering our past. We want to see solar as a part of that future at UVA, so we put solar on the Rotunda.”

The idea originated with former Hoo Erik Toor (‘20) in 2017 from a class he took, “Intro to Renewable Energy.” After more research, a Department of Energy internship and a summer gig installing solar on rooftops around Washington D.C., he contacted Sun Tribe Solar, in Charlottesville. The company generously contributed the four panels, additional equipment, and engineering and installation guidance for the first solar LOTL the next year, and has been an LOTL partner ever since.

Cville Solar Project members
Cville Solar Project members (l-r) Steven Tyerech, Adam O’Neill, Rishab Gopisetti, Ben Alter, and Russell Lee

“Finding unique ways to use solar, while also supporting student education is at the heart of what Sun Tribe does. We are glad to be a part of the process to help solar illuminate the Lighting of the Lawn each year,” says Rich Allevi, vice president of development for the company that is currently the largest provider of public sector on-site renewable energy in Virginia.

“This is a great example of how UVA is partnering with students and community organizations to raise awareness about the benefits of sustainability and encourage participation in greening our operations to achieve our goal of being carbon neutral by 2030 and fossil free by 2050,” says Ethan Heil, Energy and Sustainability Engineer with the Office for Sustainability.

Approximately 20% of UVA’s electricity now comes from renewable sources, including two large off-site solar farms, and six on-Grounds rooftop solar installations on Clemons Library, Ridley Hall, the UVA Bookstore, and Skipwith Hall, which houses the Office for Sustainability.

The micro-grid will energize the LOTL lights for the remainder of the year. In past years, the panels and other equipment were hauled off and put into storage. Seems a shame, right?

So this year, the Cville Solar Project and Office for Sustainability are running a contest for the best ideas for how the University can use this solar micro-grid for throughout the year. The ideas can be for long- or short-term uses for the panels to power, for example, small appliances and lights, charging stations, etc. The Cville Solar Project will evaluate the ideas and the winner will receive a gift card to a local Charlottesville restaurant. Use this form to enter. Deadline is Friday, December 17!

LOT by the numbers