Youngchild Hall

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Let the Sun Shine: Lawrence University Commemorates Earth Day with Solar Panel Installation

In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and in conjunction with its two-year Green Roots initiative, Lawrence University is installing the campus’ first solar panel on the roof of Youngchild Hall. The multi-day installation is expected to be completed on Earth Day, April 22.

The 2.92 kilowatt (kW) unit, composed of 14 panels each roughly 3’ x 6’ — the size of a typical residential unit — is expected to generate approximately 3,700 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity a year.

“As our first venture, we purposefully started with a small-scale operation so that we can assess if it makes sense to invest more heavily in solar power in the future,” said Jeff Clark, associate professor of geology and faculty associate to the president for the Green Roots initiative. “The electricity generated by this unit will be used to offset a small portion of our usage load rather than being sold back to the utility.”

In addition to reducing the campus’ monthly electric bill, the panel will serve a curricular purpose as well. Data from the solar collector will be live streamed over the Internet and be used in as many as Lawrence three courses, including an introductory environmental science course, the physics course “Energy Society and Environment” and the chemistry course “The Energy Conundrum.”

“Although the direct impact on our carbon footprint will be small, the educational value and the potential to learn more about the feasibility of additional installations on campus will be invaluable,” said Clark.

The panel installation is due in large part to the efforts of freshmen Will Meadows and Austin Federa, who together conducted extensive background research and secured funding for a professional site assessment.

Meadows and Austin also applied for and were awarded funding through Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program and WE Energies, which covered nearly 60 percent of the unit’s purchase price.

Northwind Renewable Energy from Stevens Point is conducting the panel installation.