Luther College is a solar leader in Iowa. Further, Luther ranks third among all private colleges in the nation when it comes to solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.
Luther College Solar PV Arrays
According to Nature Education, “the amount of solar energy that hits the surface of the earth in one hour is greater than the total amount of energy that the entire human population requires in a year.”
Luther utilizes this vast resource to power portions of our campus with solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. In the future, we may also install solar systems to heat water for various purposes on campus.
Luther is a perfect example of how colleges and universities can help drive America’s clean energy economy and win the jobs of the future. I congratulate Luther and its students on completing Iowa’s largest photovoltaic solar array – powering your campus with clean, renewable energy for years to come.Steven Chu, former U.S. Secretary of Energy
Pole-mounted PV array for the Sustainability House
The Luther College Sustainability House is a co-ed, two-story home located in a residential neighborhood near Preus Library on the eastern edge of campus. The Sustainability House offers a living-learning environment for students who share a dedication to an environmentally, socially, and fiscally sustainable lifestyle.
The Sustainability House receives electricity from a 4 kilowatt (kW), pole-mounted solar array erected on a nearby parcel of land. The $22,000 system was installed in the summer of 2011 and paid for by a donor to Luther’s Sesquicentennial Fund initiative. It is the first solar photovoltaic (PV) array installed on the Luther campus.
The system was designed to generate all of the power the Sustainability House consumes over the course of a typical year. When the array produces more power than the house consumes, the surplus electricity powers neighboring homes. Luther receives full retail credit for this surplus power through Iowa’s net metering rule.
When constructed in the summer of 2012, Luther’s solar photovoltaic (PV) array was the largest in Iowa. The 280 kilowatt (kW) facility is installed on the north edge of campus and powers Baker Village—an energy-efficient, all-electric student housing complex that utilizes geothermal energy for heating and cooling. The village consists of four townhouse-style buildings that accommodate 112 senior students as well as the Shirley Baker Commons building.
In conjunction with the 20 kW system installed near Shirley Baker Commons, this 280 kW array was designed to generate all of the power Baker Village consumes over the course of a typical year. When the array produces more power than the house consumes, the surplus electricity powers homes and business on the west side of Decorah. Luther receives full retail credit for this surplus power through Iowa’s net metering rule.
Luther College installed a 20 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) array near the Shirley Baker Commons in the summer of 2013.
The purpose of this smaller array is to demonstrate to students and other members of the community how solar photovoltaic energy and geothermal energy are being used to provide all of the energy needed to heat, cool, and power Baker Village—the largest facility in Iowa powered by the sun.
In conjunction with the 280 kW system installed north of Pole Line Road, these two arrays were designed to generate all of the power Baker Village consumes over the course of a typical year.
The panels are arranged in two rows just south of the Lillehammer building in the Anderson Prairie. When the array produces more power than the complex consumes, the surplus electricity powers neighboring homes. Luther receives full retail credit for this surplus power through Iowa’s net metering rule.
President’s House 14kW Array
Luther College is proud to say that all electricity used at the president’s residence comes from the sun. The 19 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system was installed in two phases, both projects stemming from the generous support of friends of the college.
In August 2013 a 5.3 kW array was installed on the garage roof of the president’s house. The system was funded by generous contributions of several donors–former Luther parents, faculty and staff members, and friends of the college. It was the donors’ wish to thank Luther’s ninth President, Richard L. Torgerson, and his wife, Judy, for their commitments to sustainability over the course of his 14-year term in office. This system was designed and installed by Go Solar!, a Decorah-based solar installer. It consists of 22 SolarWorldUSA panels, each rated at 240 watts, with an average annual production of 6,360 kWh. Total installed cost for this system was $3.05 per watt.
In August 2016 a second system, a 13.7 kW array, was mounted on the roof of the president’s home. Another gift from former Luther parents Leon and Linda Gregg made this project possible, and because of it, all electricity used at the president’s residence comes from the sun. The system was designed and installed by Perry Novak Electric, a Decorah-based solar installer, and utilizes a bracket to increase the angle of tilt due to the low pitch of the roof. It consists of 42 SolarWorldUSA panels each rated at 325 watts and a Solar Edge inverter. Annual production is estimated at 12,500 kWh and the total installed cost was $2.76 per watt.
When the arrays at the president’s house produce more power than the house is consuming, the surplus electricity powers homes and businesses on the west side of Decorah. Luther receives full retail credit for this surplus power through Iowa’s net metering rule.
The college is grateful to all of the generous donors who made this project possible. Solar panel—a gift that will keep on giving to the college in the form of electricity savings over time—are one way the college is able to achieve goals of environmental, social, and fiscal sustainability.
Solar panel installation on Preus Library, 2015
During the fall of 2015 Luther College installed an additional 821.76 kW of solar photovoltaic (PV) power in three arrays on the main campus.
The vast majority of this capacity (725.76 kW) is installed in two ground-mounted arrays on college property north of Pole Line Road. The east array is 172.8 kW in size and sited behind Luther’s existing 280 kW array. The west array is 552.96 kW in size and sited in the field to the west. The electricity generated by both arrays is used to power the Regents Center via a dedicated underground transmission line.
The remaining 96 kW of capacity is installed on the roof of the Preus Library and the electricity generated by the array is consumed within that building.
The arrays were designed never to produce more electricity than Luther can consume, thus the production simply offsets electricity purchases and is not subject to Iowa’s net metering rule.
During the fall of 2020 Luther College installed and cut the ribbon for an additional 950 kW of solar photovoltaic (PV) power in an array on college property along Pole Line Road. This project features a 360 kW lithium-ion energy storage system which will discharge power during periods of peak electricity consumption.
With this addition, the total solar PV electrical generation capacity serving Luther’s main campus (1,772 kW) now exceeds the generating capacity of Luther’s wind turbine (1,600 kW).