Art Museum Finds Success with Solar-Powered Vehicles

solar golf cart
Posted on December 5, 2016

The Princeton University Art Museum recently purchased solar panels to power two low speed vehicles (LSV) for staff use between the Art Museum, Alexander Street offices and other locations in town. With support from the High Meadows Foundation Sustainability Fund, the Museum was able to make a purchasing choice that was significantly more environmentally-friendly than purchasing and regularly charging the vehicles. The solar panels are made from a lightweight, non-glass, high efficiency mono crystalline material that makes them hail and impact resistant.

Michael Brew, the Manager of Finance and Personnel Operations for the Art Museum, was inspired by the upcoming 2018 exhibition, Nature's Nation: American Art and Environment. Quoting Museum Director, James Steward, the exhibition “will reinterpret American art in relation to ecology and environmental history, examining for the first time how American artists have reflected and shaped environmental understanding, while contributing to the emergence of a modern ecological consciousness.” Brew commented, “When I heard the LSV had a solar option, I just had to reach out to the Office of Sustainability to see if there was grant funding available to help us try this alternative energy source.”

solar cart Michael Brew demonstrates one of the carts

At the time of publication, the two carts had not yet needed to be plugged in to charge. The LSV’s have odometers to help track mileage and a battery meter, and the meter, which has 10 bars, has not yet fallen below 9 bars. After parking in a sunny spot, it has quickly recovered back to 10 bars, thanks to the solar panel. The use of the carts is being continuously monitored by Museum staff for a full life-cycle analysis. A log is being kept to monitor the two carts’ charging activity. Brew said, “Our staff looks forward to years of sustainable driving in these vehicles, and we would highly recommend them to other campus partners.”

The High Meadows Foundation Sustainability Fund accepts proposals for campus sustainability projects, with an emphasis on measurable outcomes and culture change.