News Release

For Immediate Release

Contact: Daniel Wackershauser, Marketing Specialist
Phone: 608.822.2303
Mail: 1800 Bronson Blvd., Fennimore, WI 53809
Date of Release: May 31, 2024

Solar array planned for Southwest Tech

Fennimore -
The solar array will be located in this field behind the Knox Learning Center (not pictured).

A solar array and battery storage project is planned for the Southwest Wisconsin Technical College campus. It will be the first such project in the college’s history. A 300-kilowatt solar array, plus a 125-killowatt battery storage system will be installed in an area behind the Knox Learning Center. The electricity produced will be used strictly for Building 400 on campus, one of the most populated buildings during the summer. The solar array will produce electricity. Natural gas will continue to be used to heat the building.

According to Amy Seeboth-Wilson, director of grants at Southwest Tech, during the first year, the system is expected to produce approximately 352,710 killowatt hours, or approximately 60-percent of the building’s electricity and saving the college approximately $30,000 per year in utility costs. This project is made possible thanks to $500,000 in grant funds from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission and new tax credits made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act.

Southwest Tech has made continual investments in energy conservation over the years. “Most of our buildings run off of a uniform Building Automation System, which allows us to run scheduled efficiencies and adjust temperature set points based upon the seasons,” said Dan Imhoff, executive director of facilities at Southwest Tech.

“In the past five years we have upgraded from fluorescent to LED in parking lots, labs, and most classrooms, installing rooftop air handing units, energy efficient boilers in two buildings, energy efficient water heaters in four buildings, and occupancy light sensors in most buildings,” said Josh Bedward, facilities manager/master electrician at Southwest Tech.

In 2022, campus officials set more aggressive energy-related goals. Two of the 2022-2025 strategic directions are to: reduce greenhouse gas emissions on campus by 20 percent, and

reduce energy costs by the same during this period.

To achieve this goal, in the summer 2022, with help from a Wisconsin Public Service Commission Office of Energy Innovation Energy Innovation Grant, Southwest Tech contracted with Ameresco to write a 10-year Comprehensive Energy Plan. The consultants worked with the Campus Energy Committee to audit all 22 campus buildings, build an energy model, and review utility costs.

In early December 2023, Ameresco provided Southwest Tech with an 80-percent complete plan that provides a path to achieve 62-percent reduction in building energy use and 100-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the next 10 years through four primary strategies:

• Electrification of gas-fired equipment of the campus

• Lighting upgrades and controls

• HVAC control strategies

• Solar installations

In evaluating those options, Southwest Tech officials have decided to move forward with their top recommended solar strategy, as well as lighting upgrades and HVAC control strategies. “We decided to move forward with solar because it is a transformational project, and one that captures the imagination and attention of our students,” said Seeboth-Wilson. “Also, the energy savings from this single project paved the path forward for additional funding to do innovative investments.”

“We have been looking at sustainability for quite a while,” said Imhoff.

Ameresco will be installing the project, which is currently in the design phase. Underground work is planned for this summer. Solar panels should be on site early this fall, with the project set for operations in March 2025.

“We are definitely going to use the data from the project in our solar course,” said Ashley Wojtalewicz, energy coordinator/Sustainable Energy Management instructor. “We will have a monitor platform in place to show us how much energy we are using, and we’ll put a couple meters in place, as well, so we can see how much we are off-setting energy on campus. It will be a wonderful way to actually, physically show students a solar site.”

The solar array will encompass roughly, three-quarters of an acre, with approximately six rows of panels. “This is a really large solar project for an institution,” said Seeboth-Wilson, noting this project is called, behind-the-meter solar. “Instead of feeding back to the grid, all of this solar is going to be used by us, on campus.”

“As a technical college, we take our role as technology adapters very seriously,” said Seeboth-Wilson. “We want to make sure our students are aware of the latest technologies, and then make it available for our area business partners to learn from, as well.”

| Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, is one of 16 institutions that comprise the Wisconsin Technical College System. It is a semi-finalist for the 2025 Aspen Prize. Southwest Tech offers more than 60 programs in a wide variety of disciplines. Courses are offered on campus, online, HyFlex and in a blended format. The college provides apprenticeship, certificate, technical diploma, and associate degree programs that respond to district workforce needs and prepare student for family-sustaining jobs and career advancement. |

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