Luther College celebrates new solar panel array

On Nov. 3, 2020, Luther College hosted a private and socially distanced ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil a new solar panel array that is projected to produce around 10% of the school's annual electricity consumption.

Nationally recognized as one of the top 10 colleges for campus sustainability, Luther is committed to the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 70% and becoming carbon neutral by the year 2030.

The ribbon cutting event included Luther College President Jenifer K. Ward; Perry and Wendy Novak of Nova Properties LLC; Matt Burkey, senior vice president at Northeast Security Bank; Jay Uthoff, Luther College director of Facilities Services, Jim Martin-Schramm, director of Luther’s Center for Sustainable Communities; Chris Frantsvog, Luther sustainability coordinator; Laura Peterson, associate professor of environmental studies; and Luther students, Logan Olson '22, chair of Environmental Concerns Organization (ECO), and Faye Duster '22, Luther College Sustainability Council. The event focused on the history of the project and the continued plans for the college and the community.

"This solar array reflects Luther College's commitment to stewardship of our planet, but also stewardship of relationships with our local community," said President Ward. "We are grateful for the partnership with Nova Properties LLC on this exciting project."

At the event, Martin-Schramm stated, "Luther wants to be a model for, rather than a mirror of, our larger society. This project demonstrates that we can harness the power of the sun to heat, cool, and power our campus while also reducing emissions at the rate needed to prevent catastrophic climate change."

Decorah-based Perry Novak Electric worked over the last several months to install the new solar photovoltaic facility on the north end of campus. This facility is owned by Nova Properties LLC, and includes  a battery storage system. The project was fully funded by the investor; Luther is leasing the land and will purchase power from the facility over the next 10 years.

The array is projected to produce more than 1.2 million kilowatt hours per year, the amount needed to power 1,122 US households, and will provide 10% of the college's current electricity consumption as well as reduce Luther's carbon footprint by another 4%.

This is Luther's third large solar project to be developed with local investors; all of these projects recycle a significant amount of money back into the local economy, save on operating costs, and reduce carbon emissions. Through this work Luther has been recognized by Environment America as one of the top five colleges and universities to self-supply renewable energy.

Aerial view of Luther College's newest solar panel array.
Left to right: Faye Duster '22, Laura Peterson, Wendy Novak, Jim Martin-Schramm (back), President Ward, Jay Uthoff (back), Perry Novak, Matt Burkey, Chris Frantsvog, Logan Olson '22