MATC to install state's larges rooftop solar

Hans Breitenmoser works with North Wind Renewable Energy to install solar panels at his dairy farm near Merrill.

Madison Area Technical College is set to install Wisconsin’s largest rooftop solar energy system, college officials said Thursday.

The $2.3 million project could save the college more than $200,000 a year in electricity costs. MATC said it will pay $1.8 million for the project, while a Madison Gas & Electric Co. grant will cover the rest.

Rooftop repairs and upgrades are part of the project, bringing the total to about $3.5 million, said Ken Walz, MATC renewable energy instructor and director of the Center for Renewable Energy Advanced Technological Education.

The 1,400-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system will offset about 10 to 15 percent of the college’s electricity use, Walz said. On sunny days, the system is expected to reduce the school’s peak electric load by about 50 percent while reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

“[It’s] a good way for the college to step up and be a role model,” Walz said.

The state’s next-largest rooftop system is about 1,000 kilowatts, according to RENEW Wisconsin, a renewable energy advocacy group.

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Walz said students will be included in the installation. The smart-grid system is being designed to do experiments, he said.

For example, students would be able to analyze data from the system and inspect it for repair needs. Renewable energy, electrical engineering and architecture students, among others, could benefit from the system, according to MATC, also known as Madison College.

“This will be a unique system because we’re not planning it just as an energy generator but as an educational tool,” Walz said. “This will be a useful facility for our students to learn. Beyond that it lowers our electric bill … and benefits the community by cleaning up the air.”

Installation of the 6,000-to-7,000 solar panels is expected to begin in the summer of 2018 and should take a few months to complete, the college said.

Other large rooftop systems in Madison include a nearly 4,500-panel, 1,000-kilowatt system at American Family and Insurance’s national headquarters and a 3,000-panel system at Central Storage and Warehouses Co., 4309 Cottage Grove Road.

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