Solar Power Project

Abbott John Klassen speaks 2009 Solar farm, winter 2010 Solar Farm, November 2009

See also: Solar farm 360 drone

view, October 2016, and

November 2016 video on the solar project 

by Johnnie Bennie Campus News

From left (click thumbnails for larger image): 1) Abbott John Klassen speaks at the groundbreaking and blessing of the St. John’s Abbey Solar farm on October 7, 2009, while SJU President Fr. Bob Koopman (2nd from left), Br. Benedict Luethmers (2nd from right) and officials from the M.A. Mortenson Company of Minneapolis and Westwood Renewables of Eden Prairie look on, 2) Solar farm, winter 2010 (photo by Theo Eggermont) and 3) Solar Farm, November 2009 (photo by Fr. Tom Gillespie)

Contractor: Westwood Renewables

Date: 2009, with additions in 2014 and 2016

From an announcement on the Abbey website, “Saint John’s Abbey Goes Solar! Construction on Solar Photovoltaic Project to begin in October 2009”:

“Saint John’s Abbey has received the final approvals and permits to construct a solar energy power field on about four acres of abbey land. The Benedictine tradition at Saint John’s Abbey advocates a strong commitment to good stewardship of its resources. Incorporating solar energy to the campus’s energy sources is the first major step in the Abbey’s initiative to broaden and strengthen the monastic community’s commitment to green energy-and to education.

Just two years ago, under then-president Br. Dietrich Reinhart, Saint John’s University was a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in 2007, which directs Saint John’s to the ultimate goal of carbon neutrality as part of an ongoing commitment to good stewardship….

This solar power project (in addition to the modest solar array that was added to the science center at Saint John’s in 2008), offers a potentially major addition to the university’s environmental studies curriculum, as students will now be able to study a system in operation on the Saint John’s campus. Locating the facility on a college campus allows students direct access to cutting-edge technology.

Saint John’s is partnering with Westwood Renewables, a Minnesota-based company that specializes in solar electric development, design, and education, to construct the solar power field. The installation of approximately 1,800 solar modules will begin in mid-September with completion expected in late November. In addition to the power benefits, education is a major component and goal of the project….

The solar photovoltaic energy project will consist of approximately 1,800 solar modules that will produce an anticipated annual energy production of 575,000 kilowatt-hours. These panels will be places on 3.9 acres of abbey land west of the main entrance to the Saint John’s campus. The power generated by the panels will be connected to the electrical grid serving Saint John’s and the central Minnesota area.”

In November 2014  the Abbey solar farm was expanded with 616 new solar panels. Partially funded by Xcel Energy through a grant from the renewable development fund, these panels are capable of producing nearly 23o,000 kW of solar power annually, enough to power approximately twenty-nine homes. The fixed-rack mounting of the panels (compared to the single-axis tracking system in place in 2009) enables comparison of the performance and effectiveness of the two types of solar panels.

In 2016 another explansion more than quadrupled the amount of energy produced; see solar farm 360 drone aerial view from October 2016.