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Friday, July 16, 2010

Brad Morton '92: Green energy leader

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Brad Morton poses with solar panels on top of Central Library.
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LaVerne Jones
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Brad Morton's goal is to make Evansville "the solar hub of Indiana."

Morton, a 1992 USI graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering technology and an associate's degree in mechanical engineering technology, is president of Morton Solar and Wind, LLC, a NABCEP certified renewable energy systems designer and installer based in Evansville.

"This area has more solar potential than Jacksonville, Florida, in June through September," he said. "If we used solar to power air conditioning, we could help reduce coal consumption and peak loads. Running the air conditioning is causing the power plants to burn more coal in the heat of summer. If there's any place that needs to improve air quality, it's here."

Morton was named a 2009 Energy Patriot by U.S. Senator Richard Lugar. Lugar's Energy Patriots Awards recognize outstanding Hoosiers who have demonstrated leadership and initiative in taking concrete action to improve America's energy security. Morton was recognized for his efforts to increase the use of solar energy in Indiana.

Last year, Morton Solar and Wind installed the photovoltaic system for the first net-zero library in the Midwest. A net-zero building generates as much energy as it consumes while producing no carbon emissions.

Last week, the company was awarded a $2.16 million contract to work on the first net-zero elementary school in the U.S. The new Richardsville Elementary School, under construction near Bowling Green, Kentucky, will have the largest photovoltaic system in Kentucky.

Two separate photovoltaic systems will be installed on the school. The first will consist of UniSolar laminate panels adhered to the roof. The second will be comprised of monocrystalline panels mounted on a canopy in the parking lot. Morton Solar and Wind will partner with Advanced Electrical Systems of Louisville, Kentucky, on the $2.4 million project.

Morton's interest in renewable energy began when he was an undergraduate at USI. "Initially it was sparked by a research project at USI in 1989, in which I did a report on solar energy," he said. "I wondered, 'Why are we not utilizing solar energy around here?'"

There was little interest in renewable energy in the 1990s, when energy costs were low, but when gas prices rose in the early 2000s, Morton knew the time was right to start his business. "Nobody else was doing it, and I knew there was interest. I have a strong background in electrical engineering, so it was a natural transition for me."

He started his first business, Industrial Control Engineering, in 2003, and founded Morton Energy three years later. He renamed the company Morton Solar and Wind in 2009.

He has installed solar and wind systems throughout the region, including photovoltaic systems on the Ohio Township Public Library in Newburgh, Central Library in downtown Evansville, and the net-zero Chrisney Public Library in Chrisney, Indiana.

He installed the first solar system in downtown Evansville at VPS Architecture, and the city's first wind energy project - a grid-tied wind turbine at Englebrecht Orchards.

Morton was recently nominated to the USI Alumni Council by Dr. Zane Mitchell, chair of the Department of Engineering and a LEED accredited professional, a recognition awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Mitchell said, "Brad has taken an innovate stance in the region toward alternative energy. He's gotten involved with the USI Engineering Advisory Board, and he's willing to help students. He's somebody who is giving back to the University. He's got a neat entrepreneurial spirit, and he's about keeping it Green, which is something we need to see more of."



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