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.
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.
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.
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.