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Solar energy now helps WITC-New Richmond

An ABLE Energy technician slides one of the 16 panels into place on the new solar panel at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College-New Richmond campus. The electricity generated by the panel is channeled into the college’s electrical grid and will save the college about $650 a year. The solar panel was installed due to a grant from New Richmond Utilities and WPPI Energy.

(7/16/12): Though not uncommon, the sight of solar panels soaking up the sun still seems out of the ordinary – especially on a college campus. But thanks to the participation of New Richmond Utilities and WPPI Energy, a 16-panel PV (photovoltaic) solar system was recently installed on the east lawn at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College-New Richmond.

“With the generous financial support through a grant from New Richmond Utilities and WPPI Energy, we were able to have this PV system installed at our New Richmond campus – a fine model of collaboration with our local utility,” says Ted May, Ph.D., Academic Dean - General Studies, Renewable Energy and Sustainability. 

“This project demonstrates how using energy from a renewable resource like the sun can benefit our community and our environment,” says Mike Darrow, New Richmond City Administrator / Utility Manager. “New Richmond Utilities recognizes our shared responsibility to help protect the environment for future generations. Supporting local efforts such as the WITC solar project is one way we’re working to do our part.”

“This 4 kilowatt system is significantly larger than those at our other campuses. It allows us to continue our ongoing efforts to reduce energy costs for college operations, while providing educational opportunities for our students,” May explains.

This New Richmond PV system also increases education potential since the students in the Industrial Automation and Controls Networking program will work with and learn from its monitoring software. WITC-Ashland also offers a solar or wind electricity certificate, which electricians may pursue to enhance their knowledge and skills for installing renewable electricity systems.

In theory, the process is basic: The panels capture solar power and convert it to direct current (DC). The power is channeled into WITC’s existing electrical system or power grid. It’s estimated the solar PV system-produced electricity will save approximately $650 per year.

The PV system is mounted on a pole for clear access to the sun and is tilted as the seasons change. The system will produce power on cloudy days and can handle up to one-inch hailstones and winds of 90 mph.

Installation of this PV system on the New Richmond campus is a very visible sign of WITC’s ongoing dedication to sustainability. Across the 11-county district, WITC has worked to reduce energy consumption and invest moderately in renewable energy projects.

The Ashland and Superior campuses have PV systems installed, and the Ashland campus also installed a small (3 kilowatt) wind turbine. Among the many investments in sustainability in operations, the Ashland and Rice Lake campuses have installed rain gardens; and the Rice Lake campus has an electric car for its conference center.

New Richmond Utilities is a local, municipally owned and operated electric utility. WPPI Energy is the nonprofit power supplier for New Richmond Utilities and 50 other consumer-owned electric utilities. Through WPPI Energy, these public power utilities share resources and own generation facilities to provide reliable, affordable electricity to more than 195,000 homes and businesses in Wisconsin, Upper Michigan and Iowa.

For more information about WITC’s Renewable Energy and Sustainability efforts, visit www.witc.edu/sustainability/index.htm. The PV-produced electricity will be monitored and a link provided on this site to see results.