The University of St. Thomas School of Engineering will begin work this summer on a facility that will be used for teaching as well as researching and testing components used for alternative-energy microgrids.

Components of the center will be housed in or on three adjacent buildings on the university’s “south campus” in St. Paul. They are McCarthy Gymnasium, Facilities and Design Center, and Anderson Parking Facility. The St. Thomas south campus is directly south of Summit Avenue and west of Cretin Avenue.

Much of the new facility will be located on the second and basement levels of the Facilities and Design Center. About 200 solar panels will be located next door on the roof of McCarthy Gym. And generators powered by biodiesel will be located in the lower level of Anderson Parking Facility.

On sunny days, the solar panels can generate 50 kilowatts, or enough to power 10 to 15 suburban homes. Mowry expects it will take about three years for the center to be fully operational. It will be in “island mode” by 2017, which means it will be operational but not connected to the power grid. And by 2018, it will be fully connected to the region’s power grid.