To meet our current energy needs, Saint John’s has invested and continues to look towards creating renewable energy on campus. These projects not only provide our campus with clean energy, but also offer the chance for students, faculty, and staff to learn about and research these new technologies.
When completed in December 2009, the first portion of the Saint John’s Abbey Energy Farm was the largest ground-mounted photovoltaic array in Minnesota. The solar panels were installed on 3.9 acres of the Abbey's land. To maximize efficiency, the array is made ofsingle-axis tracking panels which use GPS to follow the sun as it moves across the sky. The original panels provided 4% of our annual energy needs and could offset up to 20% of peak power requirements. The solar farm was made possible by a two million-dollar grant from Xcel Energy's Renewable Development Fund, Saint John’s Abbey, and Westwood Renewables.
In November 2014, the initial solar field was expanded. A row of fixed panels was installed on both the north and south sides of the existing solar field. The additional panels provided an additional 181 kilowatts of capacity. With the addition, the solar field now provides about 6 percent of our energy annually, and up to 30% in peak conditions! Approximately 600 tons of CO2 emissions are avoided each year as a result of this investment in renewable energy.
The possibility of research is another great benefit of having a solar field on campus. Having both fixed and tracking panels in the same field is a unique occurrence, and it offers the the chance for students, faculty, and other interested individuals to view a direct comparison between the efficiencies of the two technologies.
One of our alumni, Steve Fait ’94, was a writer and producer of The Man with the Golden Sun, which was created for the “Putting the Sun to Work for Minnesota” film contest, presented by Solar Works for Minnesota and Environment Minnesota.
Although Saint John’s doesn’t currently have a wind turbine, we have been researching the viability of wind energy on campus. With advances in technology and viable sites marked out, wind energy looks to be a very realistic option and would be a major step as Saint John’s continues to move towards carbon neutrality.
A single 2.0 MW wind tubine...
- could provide enough enough electricity to power the entire Saint John’s campus in moderate wind conditions.
- could produce 30% - 50% of our total electricity needed on an annual basis.
Other on-campus energy sources:
As the on-campus Power Plant heats and cools our buildings, it also creates approximately one-fourth (25%) of the electricity consumed on campus. Co-generation means there are two uses for the steam. The primary role of steam production is to heat and cool our buildings; the electricity is a side benefit. Our boilers produce high pressure steam, which spins turbines to generate electricity. The turbines drop the steam from high pressure steam down to the low pressure steam that is used by campus buildings.