College Signs 20-Year Pact to Acquire Renewable Electricity

October 01, 2019

The College has signed a 20-year purchase agreement with Iowa-based Trusted Energy, which will provide renewable electricity from a solar installation to be built on 30 acres of farmland adjacent to campus.

The agreement will enable the College to save approximately $3 million in electricity costs over 20 years. In addition, the College will reduce its yearly carbon footprint by 18%.

College leaders have been working with Trusted Energy officials for two years to develop this strategic plan to help meet the College’s renewable energy needs.

“Our agreement with Trusted Energy will support the College’s commitment to social responsibility by greatly reducing our carbon footprint,” says President Raynard S. Kington. “It also will save money and nonrenewable electricity, moving the College closer to our goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2040.”

The 4-megawatt solar installation will consist of 10,296 solar panels linked to a single axis tracker that will rotate the panels from east to west each day to better follow the sun. When operating at full capacity, the solar farm will provide about 30% of campus electricity. The College will continue to purchase electricity to meet the rest of its needs from Alliant Energy.

The solar farm will be directly linked by cable to the College’s electric power switchgear on 10th Avenue in Grinnell. The facility also will provide 540 kilowatts of energy storage. This battery storage will significantly reduce the College’s energy costs at times of peak demand for electricity.

The installation near Grinnell College will be the largest privately owned solar project in the state, according to the Iowa Environmental Council, the state’s largest coalition of environmental organizations.

The project stems from the work of the Task Force on Fossil Fuel Divestment and Climate Impact established in 2017 by the Grinnell College Board of Trustees. The task force’s final report concludes that “with overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change is a global threat requiring immediate responses ... Grinnell College, as a good global citizen, should take meaningful actions that directly contribute to reducing the impact of climate change.”

“These actions,” the report adds, “can include reducing the use of fossil fuels in the operations of the college, acting on recommendations in Grinnell’s well-developed Sustainability Plan and exploring possible curricular enhancements with regard to climate and sustainability.”

“Students also have been encouraging the College to move toward a sustainable, carbon-free campus,” says Chris Bair ’96, environmental and safety manager and co-chair of the Sustainability Committee.

The College has five solar installations on campus that are connected to various buildings. The installations provide from 15% to 100% of the electricity consumed by their respective buildings.

Construction of new solar installation will begin as soon as crops are harvested on 30 acres of farmland adjacent to campus on the north side of 16th Avenue, just east of the railroad tracks in Grinnell. The project is scheduled to start generating renewable electricity for the College during the first quarter of 2020.

“A lot of work went into the project to get to this point, but this is where things start to get exciting,” says Rob Hach, president and CEO of Trusted Energy.

Based in Storm Lake, Iowa, Trusted Energy is a full-service renewable energy company founded in 2002. Trusted Energy plans, engineers, designs, procures, installs, and maintains renewable electricity generating assets for colleges, farms, homes, manufacturers, municipalities, retailers, schools, and warehouses.

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