2022 renewable energy update

I’ve been crunching the numbers for our institution’s electricity consumption and production. We now have two full calendar years of data on our latest solar energy installations, so let’s take a look.

The short-statured and drought-tolerant Spotted Horsemit (Monarda punctata) fits in well between the rows of solar panels and feeds lots of bees.


These numbers include consumption data from the ~24 NIPSCO electric meters located at the facilities around Lake Galbraith, west of Plymouth, IN. For the sake of data consistency, this includes Marian University’s Ancilla College, who is now an independent entity.

(ADS = Ancilla Domini Sisters)

Overall electricity consumption declined 3% overall from 2014 to 2021. Significant changes during this time frame included the addition of two residence halls, the demolition of a couple structures/trailers, and an LED lightning retrofit.

During this time, solar energy systems were installed, with Phase 1 coming online in 2018 and Phase 2 in 2019. The wind turbine at Moontree has been operational since 2022, but its impact is not visible on the scale of this chart.

For the 2021 calendar year, these renewable energy systems produced 18% of the electricity needs overall.

Emissions associated with electricity generated by NIPSCO have been falling steadily over the previous decades. NIPSCO has reduced their rate of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 17% from 2016 levels and 63% from 2005 levels. Current, approved plans to phase out their coal-burning power plants and replace them with renewable sources has the utility on track for a 90% reduction in GHG by 2030 (from a 2005 baseline). So while consumption has only dropped 3%, and renewable energy reduced purchases by an additional 18%, total emissions are dropping even further. Adding all of these effects, ADS electricity-related emissions are approximately 35% lower in 2021 than they were in 2014.

In early 2022, ADS’s renewable energy systems surpassed a new milestone: production of over two million kWh of clean electricity. For scale, that’s enough to power an average home in Indiana for about 180 years.

College Solar Arrays

The college solar arrays came online with Phase 2 in 2019. They provide approximately 75% of the electricity needs for the residence halls and the classrooms. I have worked with the installer (Green Alternatives Inc.) on troubleshooting some software and hardware issues, but they generally are performing as expected. 

Water Reclamation Facility (“Wastewater”)

The water reclamation facility arrays came online with Phase 1 in 2018. It provides 40-45% of the electricity needs for the water reclamation facility. I have worked through minor issues with the installer (Ag Technologies) as they have arisen, but generally it is performing as expected. 

Lindenwood Retreat and Conference Center

The Lindenwood arrays came online with Phase 2 in 2019. They provide approximately 1/3 of the electricity needs for Lindenwood during normal operation. I have worked with the installer (Green Alternatives Inc.) on troubleshooting some hardware issues. We had a long wait time for replacement hardware from the manufacturer in 2021 and that reduced production for that year. Otherwise the system is performing as expected. 

The wind turbine was installed at Moontree in 2011. The solar array came online with Phase 1 in 2018. Together they supply a little over half of the electricity needs for the Gallery and the Shop. The systems are performing as expected. Over the course of the year, the two systems are countercyclical. Solar energy production is maximized during the long summer days, while wind is strongest and most consistent in the winter. We use net metering, so it doesn’t really matter from a billing perspective, but it feels nice to see!


In summary, the systems are working about as expected. When fully operational, they are hitting the production targets we expected. There are inevitable issues that arise in regards to hardware, software, infrastructure, etc. That’s where we are fortunate to have two local installers who do their best to keep us up and running. Solar energy requires zero fuel cost. It is low maintenance, but not zero maintenance. Opportunities exist for co-locating pollinator friendly plants between the panels… an update on that initiative will be due after this year’s growing season.

news update: late winter edition

Only the growth of a global appreciation for our common human past will wipe out assumptions that a site belongs to the person who temporally owns the land above it.

Ellen Herscher, “A Future in Ruin” (1989)

What I’ve been reading/watching lately…

Study: Gas stoves worse for climate than previously thought (AP) Gas stoves are contributing more to global warming than previously thought because of constant tiny methane leaks while they’re off, a new study found. The same study that tested emissions around stoves in homes raised new concerns about indoor air quality and health because of levels of nitrogen oxides measured.

You don’t want a gas stovetop (Vlogbrothers 4 min video)

How I’m helping to save the birds by keeping chickens (be warned – this is satire, and spot-on 🙂 )

What’s driving the remarkable decline of urban sprawl in the US? (Fast Company) A new study finds that a primary culprit has been rising gas prices—spurring denser development in communities across the country.

Proposals could give South Bend one of the largest indoor farming campuses in the Midwest (South Bend Tribune) The city council gave a unanimously positive recommendation Monday night for two tax abatements that could put South Bend at the epicenter of the hydroponic produce market in Indiana, and possibly the Midwest, for years to come. 

Conversion of Minnesota grasslands to crops threatens wildlife, water, climate (StarTribune, MN) Across the state, conversion of key biome into crops threatens wildlife, water and climate. 

Environmental Groups are Enthusiastic About New Actions Taken by the Federal Government Regarding Coal Ash Disposal in Indiana (Indiana Env Reporter)

Climate Change Is Already Rejiggering Where Americans Live (The Atlantic) Some Hurricane Ida survivors may have no choice but to leave. Sooner or later, people across the country will be in the same bind.

Get a free charge for your electric vehicle: Mishawaka and Goshen get EV chargers (South Bend Tribune)

In the misinformation wars, renewable energy is the latest to be attacked (NPR) The spread of misinformation about solar and wind energy is leading some states and counties to restrict or even reject projects. The Energy Department calls it a key threat to decarbonizing the grid.

Extend your opinion to Purdue Extension

I recently had the pleasure of joining the board of our local Marshall County Extension.

Wait… what is “Extension” you ask?

All universities engage in research and teaching, but the nation’s more than 100 land-grant colleges and universities have a third, critical mission — extension. Through extension, land-grant colleges and universities bring vital, practical information to agricultural producers, small business owners, consumers, families, and young people


In Indiana, Purdue University is our land grant institution that administers Extension Services.

Their mission: We deliver practical, research-based information that enhances lives and livelihoods.

Their vision: We will be a leader in providing relevant, high-impact educational programs that transform the lives and livelihoods of individuals and communities in Indiana and the world.

Each county in Indiana has an extension office staffed with specialists. Typically this covers Agriculture and Natural Resources, Health & Human Science, Nutrition Education, and 4-H.

Our local Extension team has a calendar full of events and programs available to the public.

Extension helps local farmers adapt to changing diseases, pests, and markets. They also operate the Master Naturalist and Master Gardener programs, which I suspect many readers are familiar with. Last month, I shared with the Master Gardeners about invasive species in our county and how to address them.

Anyway… all that to say, Purdue Extension is currently conducting a statewide survey with two purposes:

To reflect on the Extension vision – delivering practical, research-based information that enhances lives and livelihoods, and on the Extension mission – leading in providing relevant, high-impact educational programs that transform the lives and livelihoods of individuals and communities in Indiana and the world.

To assess the Extension value and impact on Indiana families, businesses, operations, organizations, and communities.


This survey is valid for anyone who resides in the state of Indiana, not just Marshall County. I just took it… it doesn’t take too long. If you live in Indiana, please head on over and fill it out.

last chance to join the Northern Indiana Solar Co-op

We are entering the last month to sign up for the solar co-op, a group purchase program coordinated by Solar United Neighbors that is open to residents in and around St. Joseph, Elkhart, Marshall, and Kosciusko Counties.

We are happy to report that we are up to 175 members. Of those, 12 systems have already been installed, another 35 contracts have been signed, and dozens of proposals still out there waiting to have a decision made.