Solar Dedication

Headlines: Luther College to dedicate solar energy production facility

Luther College will hold a dedication ceremony for the newly constructed solar energy production facility at noon Saturday, Oct. 27 at the solar field site on Pole Line Road.

The ceremony will include a ribbon cutting along with Luther students reading tributes from Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Energy. Remarks will be made by Richard Torgerson, President of Luther College, Paul Torgerson, chair of the Luther College Board of Regents and Larry Grimstad, owner of the solar facility.

The solar energy production facility, the largest in the state of Iowa, was built during the summer of 2012. It started producing electricity on Aug. 24 and now supplies energy for Baker Village, an all-electric residential facility that houses more than 100 students in six buildings.  

The electricity produced by the new field of solar panels powers all the facility's electrical appliances as well as its geothermal heating and cooling system. The 280-kilowatt facility is designed to produce 355,000-kilowatt hours of electricity/year. Once paired with a 20-kilowatt array, to be installed near Shirley Baker commons later this year, it will produce all the electricity Baker Village consumes in a year, making it the largest facility in Iowa powered by the sun.

Located on college-owned property north of campus, Luther is leasing the array from Decorah Solar Field, LLC, a corporation owned by Decorah resident Larry Grimstad.  The array of 1,250 separate solar panels is mounted in six rows on approximately two acres of land. The college plans to purchase the solar array after seven years. The solar panels have a 25-year warranty.

Due to Iowa's net metering laws and regulations, the college's meter will run backwards on days when the system produces more electricity than is consumed at Baker Village. The excess electricity will enter Alliant Energy Company's distribution grid to provide power for nearby homes and businesses in Decorah.

The Decorah Board of Adjustment and the Decorah City Council approved the site plans and permits in February 2012 and an interconnection agreement with Alliant Energy was executed in late April 2012.           

The facility, designed by Dragonfly Solar in the Twin Cities, consists of solar panels manufactured by SolarWorld, USA.

Jim Martin-Schramm, Luther professor of religion who helped coordinate the project, said this sustainability initiative will contribute to Luther's efforts to reduce its carbon footprint by 50 percent by the year 2015, 70 percent by 2020, and achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.

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