Gustavus Adolphus to Install New Solar Panel Field

Gustavus Adolphus to Install New Solar Panel Field

Gustavus Adolphus College
Press Release

The project will be completed in 2025 and will generate about 10 percent of the College's energy usage.

Given the solar eclipse happening on April 8 and the campus-wide Earth Day celebration occurring later this month, Gustavus is pleased to announce that it has signed a contract to purchase and install a solar panel field behind the Arbor View residence complex. Due to the size of the transformer needed and supply chain logistical issues, completion of the project is not expected until the spring of 2025.

Once it’s up and running, the 1.1 megawatt-DC photovoltaic system will generate about 10 percent of the College’s overall energy use, enough to power two of our larger residence halls continuously. Gustavus has set a goal of reducing energy consumption on campus by 25 percent by the end of 2024, and this project will take significant steps toward achieving this goal. To illustrate the scale of the project, the College’s largest current solar array is a 40kw installation on top of Beck Hall, so the Arbor View installation will be 25 times larger. (The College also has solar panels in various spots around campus.) 

Native Minnesota shortgrass prairie species will be planted underneath the new panels to benefit pollinators, reduce water consumption and run-off, and promote healthy soil. The completed array will be surrounded by secure fencing but will be designed as an educational and outreach tool, with interpretive signage to foster tours and class projects and student engagement. Students will be able to work closely with Facilities and Sustainability staff to learn about renewable energy and analyze energy consumption data, providing valuable research opportunities for students interested in environmental studies, green energy, data analysis, engineering, and other related fields. 

This project also provides resources for faculty to integrate renewable energy, energy reduction, and sustainability into academic curricula and research projects, which will help students develop a deeper understanding of the complex issues surrounding sustainable energy practices. “By involving students in energy use, renewable energy innovation, and sustainability efforts, Gustavus is nurturing responsible global citizens and creating a legacy of environmental consciousness,” said Kari Wallin, Sustainability manager and co-director of the Johnson Center for Environmental Innovation. “Students become active contributors to the institution’s sustainability goals, taking ownership of the future they want to see.” Gustavus has already had several student interns and class groups utilize our current energy data to analyze gaps and identify areas of improvement, which has given them valuable experience that has led to job opportunities in energy management.  

In conjunction with the solar project, the College is making progress toward reaching zero waste (i.e., diverting 90% of our waste away from landfills). For example, between 2018 and 2023 Gustavus reduced the amount of waste sent to landfills from 64 percent to 39 percent, which we accomplished by changing infrastructure—e.g., switching to recycling dumpsters and increasing composting by expanding to dorms—and increasing opportunities and education for students around waste sorting and reduction.

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