Augustana operating solar power station
A new solar power station operated by Augustana College was subsidized by the state of Illinois, demonstrating that sustainable energy projects remain viable even in times of tight budgets.
That’s partly because solar power is not only clean, it pays for itself in the long run, according to Dr. Bohdan Dziadyk, a professor of biology at Augustana College and an advocate for its sustainability initiatives.
“We will more than recoup our costs, plus make much less impact on the environment by turning sunshine into electricity,” said Dr. Dziadyk.
Ten solar panels were installed at the Green Wing Environmental Laboratory, a field station south of Dixon, Ill., in rural Lee County that is owned and operated by Augustana. The total cost of materials and installation was $10,000, with 40 percent, coming from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity under a program to promote the development of renewable energy.
The solar panels are capable of producing 2,350 kilowatts of clean energy on sunny days, and less on cloudy days, but usually enough to power accommodations and laboratory equipment at Green Wing, which is the largest of the college’s three biological field stations. It covers 420 acres and is equipped with two buildings to house students and faculty during summer classes and field research.
When the field station is closed, the solar panels continue to work, becoming a generating station for the Lee County electrical grid. This earns the college credits on its power bill.
“If people could cover the up-front investment, and incorporate this into their own energy budgets, they could really save money,” said Dr. Dziadyk.
For a college professor, those are the aspects of renewable energy that create teachable moments.
“I hope to be teaching a class out there this summer,” he said. “This fits perfectly with our expanding world view of sustainability and wise use of resources.”