University of Montevallo Observatory Complex gets Green Makeover

A construction project to help make the University of Montevallo’s James Wylie Shepherd Observatory Complex a Platinum-LEEDS certified facility has successfully begun. Funding for the project comes from the University of Montevallo Sustainability Committee, the UM Green Fund, the Student Government Association, and Legacy, Inc.  The project consists of the installation of comprehensive alternative energy solutions, permitting the generation of clean energy, low-impact restrooms, and recycled rainwater at the JWSO’s educational Command Center.

The first phase of the construction project was implemented this week by UM Physical Plant electrician Kerry Loveless, who along with UM student Aaron Traywick, coordinated volunteer workers from the UM Environmental Club and regional artist Andy Cummings’ sustainability-oriented TreePlay construction company. Eight solar panels and supporting scaffolding were installed at the site. Once connected to the electrical grid, the panels will generate enough clean energy to fully offset all energy use at the JWSO, and is the first step in a massive environmental turnaround for the site of the former campus landfill. 

The project also includes the installation of an 800-gallon rainwater collection and purification system to serve as the primary water supply for the JWSO, and the phytoremediation of the soil using sunflowers and other suitable plants to extract a variety of pollutants.  The landscaping is being designed by local organic farmer and Petals From The Past proprietor Jason Powell. The landscaping will showcase drought-resistant plant life indigenous to Alabama, and will include an area for fruit trees to benefit visitors to the site. The restrooms will feature self-composting toilets, their construction made possible through the support of UM President Dr. John W. Stewart III.

The JWSO continues to fulfill the vision of its directors, UM professors Dr. Michael Patton and Dr. Michael Sterner, whose tireless efforts over the past five years have resulted in the best public astronomical observing facility in the state, and one of only a handful in the entire country that is completely accessibleto persons with disabilities. The JWSO is free and open to the public during scheduled meetings of the Montevallo Astronomical Society and UM Astronomy Club.  Please consult the calendar at for meeting dates for the next several months.

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