September 12, 2017

White Bear Lake, MN - Century College is going solar! New solar panels, constructed outside the Science Library building on East Campus, are providing research opportunities for students to study clean energy. Xcel Energy provided the funding through a grant from the Renewable Development Fund.

The grant’s primary goal is to discover strategies to minimize the negative impact of soiling on PV panel productivity and reduce the cost-per-kilowatt-hour of electricity produced throughout the seasons. A team of faculty members and students are monitoring data concerning panel energy production and ambient meteorological conditions. The data will be analyzed to determine the most productive combinations of PV panel angles and treatment within the context of Minnesota’s climate. Project findings will be shared with the college community, solar community and the general public.

In 2012, the Xcel Energy Renewable Development Fund (RDF) was authorized by State of Minnesota legislation (2012–‐S.F. 2181) to offer Higher Education Block Grant funding. Minnesota West Community and Technical College, on behalf of the Minnesota Energy Center and Minnesota State, submitted an application, and received the $5.5 million grant. The project goal is to fund up to 14 research projects to Minnesota State colleges and universities, focused on renewable electric energy development.

In June 2016, the Minnesota Energy Center, in collaboration with the Minnesota State system office, solicited proposals from Minnesota State colleges and universities for high-quality research projects to ensure the growth, development, and delivery of renewable electric energy technologies throughout Minnesota. A program requirement includes research on “renewable technologies such as wind, hydro, electrical generation from biomass, electrical generation from biofuel, solar photovoltaics, and electrical generation from solar–‐electric.” In April, 2017, a Century College team responded to the project solicitation, and received an awarded contract for $607,650.

The purpose of this project is to involve students in research experiences guided by faculty members utilizing the photovoltaic solar panel installation with weather monitoring equipment and data streams.