Campus Solar Panels

Carroll Solar Photovoltaic Array

Carroll College has recently become home to the one of the largest on-campus solar photovoltaic arrays in Montana. Installed on the south-facing roof of the Campus Center in November 2018, the 38 kW solar array will generate nearly $6,000 worth of electricity annually.

This renewable generation project was largely funded through a $48,000 incentive through the NorthWestern Energy Efficiency Plus (E+) Renewable Energy Program. In addition, in collaboration with the Sleeping Giant Citizens Council and Helena Vigilante Runners, Carroll College raised the matching funds required by the USB incentive by directly seeking philanthropic gifts and by hosting 5-kilometer recreational Helena Sun Runs in September 2017 and 2018.

As a Catholic institution, Carroll College is called by its mission to provide a transformative educational experience for its students while simultaneously caring for the environment, our common home. Solar panels on campus will not only increase clean energy sources in our Helena community, but also provide student experiences in both interdisciplinary education and civic engagement. – Carroll College President John Cech

Our students know that the world faces environmental problems. But those issues can seem so big, so broad, that we don't know where to start. Having a large solar array on campus helps bring the issues home. We can have more specific debates about pollution, technology, and the social consequences of our energy choices. Pope Francis recently wrote that we need 'educators capable of developing an ethics of ecology, and helping people, through effective pedagogy, to grow in solidarity, responsibility and compassionate care'(Laudato si', 210). Working with my students to raise funds for solar panels on campus and to educate about the wider effects of renewable energy was a way for me to answer this call." – Alex Street, PhD, Associate Professor, Political Science

Working on the solar panel project was a great opportunity for me to learn about how making a large organization like a school more efficient works from start to finish. It was a great experience to interact with local businesses and environmental partners to make the solar panel installation happen. I'll take the knowledge and skills I gained from this project with me into my career working in the environmental sciences to hopefully help more people be more environmentally conscious and to make the world a better place. – Katie Richter, Sophomore Biology major from Grand Rapids, Minnesota

Other educational opportunities afforded by the installation of the solar panels include a screen in the Campus Center that will help bring attention to renewable energy by showing energy production from the solar array in real time, in addition to data on past energy production. Additionally, Carroll faculty plan to use the data for modeling exercises on solar energy, weather and climate patterns.

This project is part of a broader and continuing effort to improve energy efficiency and to reduce the environmental impact of campus facilities.

In addition to now having one of the largest on-campus solar photovoltaic array in Montana, Carroll also offers classes which complement this effort on campus by examining the role of energy in our communities. The classes include:

  • ES 189, Energy and Society
  • PHYS 189 - Energy, Environment, and Society
  • ENGR 326 - Energy and the Environment

Photo of Solar Panel Installation
Solar Panel Installation

Photo of Solar Panel Installation
Solar Panel Installation

Photo of Solar Panel Installation
Solar Panel Installation

Photo of Solar Panel Installation
Solar Panel Installation

Photo of Sun Run Participants
Sun Run Participants

Student Performs Solar Experiment
Carroll Chemistry research students are developing the next generation of solar panels. These solar panels would produce fuel instead of electricity, thus storing solar energy. In the photo above, a student uses an overhead projector to illuminate his test solar cell and look for evidence of solar fuel formation.