SWIC goes solar

News-DemocratJune 2, 2014 

— Southwestern Illinois College tap into solar energy.

The community college's Belleville campus is one of 15 across the state that is pursuing solar power.

SWIC has partnered with Microgrid Solar in St. Louis, which is installing the 540 panels for an estimated total of 137 kilowatts. About 115 kilowatts' worth of panels is being mounted on the roof of the varsity gymnasium and another 14 kilowatts on a "solar sun arbor," that will be behind the main complex and over the shipping and receiving parking area.

The solar equipment was made possible by funds from the Illinois from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and a grant from the Illinois Green Economy Network, a consortium of network all 48 community colleges in Illinois working build a "green" economy across the state.

IGEN Director Marcia Lochmann said SWIC is funding 60 percent of the total cost, or $162,839, and the remaining 40 percent is coming from IGEN and DCEO.

SWIC Physical Plant Director Ron Henderson said the solar panels will offset current energy costs by 3 percent, or 161 kilowatt hours a year. She said the campus uses 5 million kilowatt hours a year.

"Based on our cost for electricity, estimated at 7 cents per kilowatt hour, this results in an approximate savings of $11,847 a year, which equates to a little over 3 percent of our total building consumption, and a payback on our investment of $162,839 of approximately 13.7 years," Henderson said, in a released statement.

Microgrid Solar has provided solar panel installation for commercial, industrial and residential clients. The company recently equipped Lake Land College in Mattoon and The Muny in St. Louis with solar panels.

Senior solar sales consultant Alex Wander said the company has been receiving more business in Illinois as programs available in the state provide incentives and rebates for solar energy installation.

"We anticipate an uptick in solar activity in Illinois," Wander said. "We have quite a bit more industrial growth (in Illinois)."

Said Henderson, "I believe the college attempts to pursue programs, services and best practices in keeping with its commitment to reduce costs, reduce the consumption of natural resources and deploy sustainable programs and practices for the purposes of protecting the environment and its resources."

Lochmann said the state has one of the most aggressive renewable energy standard projections. However, she said the state is not yet in reach of its goal of 25 percent of its power from renewable energy by 2025.

"The state of Illinois is providing incentives to help the state reach that goal, but so far, we are not on track to reach that goal," she said. "The more the state can provide incentives to individual consumers, municipalities and institutions, like colleges and schools, the closer the state can get to that renewable energy standard."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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