solar ribbon cutting + blessing

Wow, what a week!

Our good friends Steve Owen & Jeff Deal from the Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy came all the way up from North Carolina to help us celebrate the commissioning of 556 kW (DC) / 488 kW (AC) of photovoltaic solar.

We were blessed to start our consulting relationship during Phase 1 of our solar journey back in 2017. Given the distance, we had done all the work via e-mail, file-sharing, and videoconferencing. But we soon found that we had missional commonalities between our communities, and realized this was no ordinary project.

We set an aggressive finish date of Sep. 1 and scheduled the ribbon cutting for the fall equinox of Sep. 23. The amazing team at Green Alternatives, Inc. (in collaboration with Wellspring and Renewable Energy Systems) did everything in their power to hit the completion date. I really wish every project I did worked out this smoothly! After seeing projects languish in delays that can be measured in trips around the sun, Jeff & Steve were flabbergasted at how we went from ground breaking to flipping the switch in just 16 weeks. The utility meter was swapped out in the 11th hour, and we energized the system just 1 hour before the ribbon cutting, under a cloudless sky.

From the Poor Handmaid’s decision point of committing to the project until the blessing was less than 12 months. Now we boast what is (to my knowledge) the largest solar array of any Indiana university or college.

Did I mention what an amazing project team we had?

Few projects are this fun! We loved having the crew lodged on site & dining with us during the installation.

Ok, back to the ceremony! After hearing a few words from each of us in regards to the project, Ancilla College President Dr. / Sr. Michele Dvorak led a blessing of the panels with students and staff, complete with water from the Heilborn Chapel in Germany.

I have to credit our amazing new Marketing Coordinator, Jessica Craig, for planning the event. She had done enough boring ribbon cutting ceremonies in previous work that she knew she had to put a creative twist on this one. True to form, she sure did it! Instead of lopping the ribbon with oversized scissors, we loaded up staff, kids, and Sisters in electric cars & golf carts and drove right through it! You can see a video clip on Facebook.

After the event, we held a panel presentation on the project which filled in a little more details. Steve & Jeff took a quick trip in to Plymouth to tour the REES Theatre renovation, where they have solar ambitions (AIRE wrote about it here, and about Ancilla College here). We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting and conspiring together, wondering how we could amplify this message and facilitate and inspire even more projects.

The 41 kW (DC) / 40 kW (AC) rooftop installation at the Lindenwood Retreat and Conference Center.

I wanted to maximize the exchange between AIRE & The Center at Donaldson during our brief time together, so we also squeezed in some guest instruction at two classes at the college, in microeconomics & in ecology.

Lastly, they finished up with a more broad perspective on the energy transition by delivering a Lampen Lecture at the college. They blogged about it here, where they also posted the text.

Now that the project is live, we get to watch the clean electrons roll in!

A snapshot of the monitoring dashboard online.

Just in the first week of production, the arrays have produced as much energy as my small rooftop array (17 panels) has produced since I had it installed in August 2017. It’s finally clicking in my brain of how big of a scale we are working on. We can be very proud of this!

1,392 panels (110 more panels at Lindenwood)

Sorry, I’ve just got so much to post! Here’s Steve & Jeff standing by the Phase 1 installation across the lake, which powers our w̶a̶s̶t̶e̶w̶a̶t̶e̶r̶ Water Reclamation Facility. I’ll be blogging more about integrating pollinator habitat in with solar arrays in the future.

Lastly, what’s the impact of Phase 2 of our solar project?

With the annual solar production, you could:
*charge 262 million AA batteries
*power 66 average homes for a year
*drive 2.8 million miles in an electric car
*power a 9W LED light bulb for more than 10,000 years

Pollution avoided annually:
*547 tons of CO2 (equivalent to planting 54 acres of forest)
*saved 334,408 gal of water, 562 lbs SO2, 894 lbs NOx, 34 lbs VOCs, 29 lbs particulates

As it stands, we’re now sitting on 638 kW (DC) / 560 kW (AC) of solar panels across The Center.

What’s next?!

13 Replies to “solar ribbon cutting + blessing”

    • Adam Thada Post author

      I still got a grin ear-to-ear! I don’t know if it was truly tireless, as the project went so smoothly. But we certainly now have momentum to keep moving forward.

  1. Jeremy Lipinski

    I know and have worked with all three of those solar installation crews and they do exceptional work. Green Alternatives Inc stands at the top of Indiana installation firms in terms of quality and expertise in workmanship. Job well done!

  2. Sr. Linda Volk

    This wonderful project gives the word “array” a whole new measure of meaning. The day we gathered for blessing, ribbon breaking and Lampen lecturing was a day not only of rippling out our efforts to help heal Earth but of really stirring the waters in this area. How fortunate we are to have partnered with the Appalachian Institute and to have Adam at the helm of this momentous endeavor. St. Francis has a rather large smile on his face!

  3. Claire Whalen, OSF

    I am super happy for all of you at Donaldson! Thanks for sharing your info and photos, Adam.
    I will be out of town from Oct. 1-10, but I would like to contact you after Oct. 15th to set up a conference call with you and my Congregation’s new Director of Campus Services in the following week. She has the OK from our leadership team to explore financing options for the Oldenburg Franciscans to consider solar energy at our campus. We are studying websites of AIRE and Catholic Energies, both non-profits facilitating the financing of solar systems for religious organizations. We know about your solar arrays through my contact with you, and we have contact with the Wheaton Franciscans’ connection with Catholic Energies. It is too bad the timing did not work out for us to come to your dedication and speak with the AIRE co-founders.

  4. Karen Thada

    Congratulations on a project well done, Adam and crew. I’m proud of you and the Sisters for making a difference!

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