Installation of solar panels at Truax is well underway


Solar panels are now being installed on the rooftops of the main Truax Campus buildings.

Andrew Kicmol, Editor in Chief

This fall a plan that started back in January 2017 to put the most extensive rooftop solar panel system in the state will wrap up. A solar panel rooftop installation is nothing new but the one wrapping up on the roof of Madison College will be unique. This installation will be the biggest in the state.

When done the solar panels will generate 1900 kilowatts, or 1.9 million watts of electrical energy. There will be 5,000 panels on the roof of the college.

“It’s 20 semi tractor trailers worth of stuff going on the roof,” said Ken Walz instructor of the renewable energy program at Madison College. 

When the project is done there will be a section of the roof specifically for teaching and tours, or anyone else curious about seeing the panels. “Using your campus like a living lab the idea that the infrastructure that we have on campus can be used to teach students,” Walz said of having easy access to the panels. The panels will be used for teaching the renewable energy program here at Madison College but also as a teaching tool for high school teachers teaching renewable energy. Both students and the teachers alike will be able to see how solar panels work up close, learning how they need to be cleaned and learn how to read and interpret the data, to see if actual performance meets projected performance. “A lot of learning that happens beyond the production of energy,” said Walz.

The teaching will come from Walz and the renewable energy center here at Madison College called Center for Renewable Energy Advanced Technological Education or CREATE for short. Local teachers in Madison that teach renewable energy will come here to the college to learn with a fully functioning and operational solar panel system that will also highlight the college and keep Madison College as the front runner in the renewable energy game.

 “On a bright sunny day in July the solar panels will generate little over half our schools electrical load,” said Walz of what the panels will be able to produce. The college uses around 10,000,000 kwh (kilowatts an hour)  per year and a little over $1,000,000 in money spent on keeping the building running. The estimation for the energy created by the solar panels is 2,000,000 kwh per year, that’s around 20% of the energy needed to keep the building running. Which is estimated to save the school $179,000. Most of that energy created will go back into the building while a small amount will go into the electrical grid.

The efforts of reducing Madison College’s energy use has been on going for over a decade now. The Truax main building used to be one of the most wasteful buildings in the entire state with over 100,000 BTUs of energy per square foot, now with continued efforts from Wes Marquardt Facilities manager and Engineering Services/Operations Manager the building is around 40,000 BTUs per square foot, making Truax one of the more energy efficient buildings in the state. The solar panels will be the icing on an energy efficient cake. “It’s been 15 years now that’s happening leading up to this big project that’s happening up on the roof,” said Walz. 

The panel installation is set to wrap up this fall, with a ribbon cutting possibly in October, but with rain causing setbacks the project has been delayed. Roofers and panel installers are working hard to get the project done on time, and when done Madison College will be ahead of the pack when it comes to renewable energy.