A shining ray of light

College celebrates new rooftop solar array that will save $200,000 a year


Amara Gobermann

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes cuts the ribbon at the grand opening celebration for Madison College’s new rooftop solar array, the largest in the state. Pictured, from left, are District Board members Dr. Elton J. Crim, Jr., Ananda Mirilli and Frances M. Huntley-Cooper; Lt. Gov. Barnes; Madison College President Dr. Jack Daniels; and Jeff Keebler, chairman, president and CEO of MG&E.

Andrew Kicmol, Editor in Chief

On Jan. 16, more than 100 people filled a hallway on the third floor of Madison College’s Truax building to celebrate the completion of the state’s largest roof-top solar panel array.

Standing shoulder to shoulder the crowd was lively and eager, laughing at the many roof and sun jokes provided.

“In light of today’s celebration in the presence of Wisconsin’s new Lt. Gov. I cannot resist the temptation to say that a new sun is rising on Wisconsin and Madison College,” Madison College President Dr. Jack Daniels said

The ceremony has been a long time coming, with two years of planning and seven months of construction.

“It’s an amazing accomplishment for the school, if you had told me when I started working here 15 years ago that we’d be commissioning a system of this size today, I don’t know that anyone would’ve made that prediction, both for the industry and the school,” said renewable energy instructor Ken Walz.

The project originally set to finish up in the fall of last year had several obstacles to deal with. The old roof made of a gravel covered rubber membrane needed to be replaced in its entirety to install the panels. The gravel had to be cleaned up and the worn rubber membrane underneath was torn up and replaced with the new roof a plastic membrane that is attached using glue.

Then record rainfall in the late summer and early fall, causing delays. All around production was slowed when the weather took a turn for the worst, workers were not allowed to be on the roof during the rain for safety reasons. Materials that needed to be lifted up to the roof via crane were also not moved because of the storms, leaving crews stuck waiting out the rains.

As the project got pushed further into the fall the start of the semester became something to work around. With students back in class the work had to be adapted to not disturb the classrooms. That meant working different hours into the evening when classes were out, and spending weekends working on the roof.

All of the work that had been put in, delays and all led to a long-awaited celebration with a variety of speakers.

Madison Gas and Electric President and CEO Jeff Keebler spoke about the partnership with Madison College. MG&E gave a $500,000 grant for the building and future maintenance of the solar photovoltaic system and was one of the many partners in the project.

Walz who wore a solar panel tie was also one of the speakers and had the biggest smile, as he was finally able to announce the projected finished.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes came out to support Madison Colleges commitment to renewable energy. His speech and reading from a proclamation from Governor Tony Evers declaring Jan. 16, 2019, as Madison College Solar Energy Day, was a sign of how much this project has meant to not just the college but the state of Wisconsin.

“For him to find time in his schedule to visit Madison College really speaks to his interest to renewable energy and in the workforce and what this can do for local economic development and create jobs,” said Walz of having Barnes speak and cut the ribbon at the ceremony.

The entire solar panel system is up and running and will be apart of this semesters hands on renewable energy instruction. You can see the panels from the windows on the third floor near stairwell A-7.

For anyone who has, pun intended here, been in the dark about the solar panels, it’s worth checking out.