Solar energy projects have reduced campus operating costs while they have also helped Luther reduce its greenhouse gas emissions nearly 60 percent to date en route to Luther’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2030. 

Luther College has utilized diverse and innovative financing schemes to develop several renewable energy projects that serve our main campus and recycle Luther’s energy dollars in the local economy.  

 

In 2009, Luther College formed two separate for-profit subsidiary corporations (Luther College Ventures and Luther College Wind Energy Project, LLC) to qualify for federal and state incentives that were vital to the erection of Luther’s 1.6 MW General Electric wind turbine in 2011.  Luther was the sole investor in both corporations and was able to secure critical funding via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program, and Iowa’s 476C Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit.  

 

More recently, Luther has partnered with three different local investors to develop three large solar projects that now total over 1.7 MW in capacity.  

 

In 2012, Luther partnered with a local investor to lease a 280 kilowatt (kW) solar photovoltaic (PV) array to power Baker Village—a student housing complex that consists of four townhouses and a commons building that serve up to 112 students.  Built in 1999, Baker Village utilizes a geothermal energy system for heating and cooling.  As an all-electric facility, it was an ideal candidate for solar power.  Today, Baker Village is the first part of the Luther Campus that is carbon neutral.  Due to net metering, geothermal energy from the earth and electrical power produced from the sun provide all of the energy utilized at Baker Village.  

 

In 2015, Luther partnered with another local investor to install an 882 kW solar PV array in three different locations on campus, including on the roof of Preus Library.  The 1.1 million kWh annual production from these arrays helps power Luther’s main campus.  After the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that third party power purchase agreements are a legal option, Luther contracted with the investor to purchase all of the power from these arrays under a ten-year, fixed-price, PPA.  Luther expects to save $1 million in electricity purchases over the 25-year-rated life of the panels.

 

In 2020, Luther partnered with a third local investor to install another 950 kW solar PV array in a field on the northern edge of campus near the other large arrays described above.  This system also includes a 370 kW lithium-ion energy storage system.  A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) confirmed that Luther was a good candidate for an energy storage system due to its high demand and transmission charges, which now represent more than 50 percent of Luther’s annual electricity expense of approximately $1 million in FY 2020.  Luther purchases the power from this facility under a ten-year, fixed-price, third party PPA and expects to save another $1 million in electricity savings over the life of the system.

 

These projects have reduced campus operating costs while they have also helped Luther reduce its greenhouse gas emissions nearly 60 percent to date en route to Luther’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2030. 

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Jim Martin-Schramm

JMS gives solar PV tour.jpg

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