Nick Fetty | May 31, 2016
A small liberal arts college in Northeast Iowa is considering ways to make solar energy more economically feasible to power its nearly 200 acre campus.
Officials at Luther College are weighing their options for ways to better utilize the storage capabilities of solar energy generated by the campus’s various solar arrays. A report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that Luther College could save about “$25,000 in energy costs for each of the next 25 years if it installs a 1.5 MW solar array and a 393 kW battery.” The analysis assumes that a third party investor will cover the cost of additional solar systems and would accept a five percent return on investment. Kate Anderson, an engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, estimated that if the measures in the analysis are implemented it would save the Decorah-based college one to two percent annually on electricity costs.
Luther College currently has several on-campus solar arrays with the potential of producing more than 1,000 kW of electricity. Officials with the college hope to generate 70 percent of the campus’s power from renewables by 2020 and to become carbon neutral by 2030. Last month, the college dedicated three new solar arrays capable of producing 820kW of electricity, making Luther the host of the most solar photovoltaic (PV) in the state.
Luther College ranks third among liberal arts colleges nationwide for solar PV generating capacity, behind Oberlin in Ohio and Bowdoin in Maine.