Rooftop solar system will be largest in Wisconsin, provides students hands-on training


Madison Gas and Electric awarded Madison Area Technical College with a grant that will help build a 1,400-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system on top of the main Truax Campus building. The system, which will be visible and accessible to students, will serve as a demonstration of new, clean energy technology at work in our community and could save the campus more than $200,000 per year in electricity costs.

Rooftop solar panels.

“Once installed, our system will be the largest rooftop PV system in Wisconsin,” said Ken Walz, chemistry and engineering instructor and director of the Center for Renewable Energy Advanced Technological Education. “On a sunny day, the system will reduce the college’s peak electric load by about 50 percent. Averaged over an entire year, it will offset about 10-to-15 percent of the college’s total electric consumption.”

MGE and the college expect to announce the selection of a solar developer in August. System design and acquisition of equipment will follow. The college plans to involve students in the installation beginning in summer 2018. It should be completed in a few months.

“We know clean energy is important to our community,” Walz added. “Thanks to the work of many people, including our students, faculty and MGE, we have bold plans for clean energy for our campus.”

Madison College is one of three colleges behind the Center for Renewable Energy Advanced Technological Education. CREATE works to advance renewable energy education by supporting two-year college renewable energy programs. The college has received multiple grants from the National Science Foundation to develop curriculum, create new educational programs and train faculty and students throughout the country in renewable energy.

“This partnership between Madison College and MGE is a great opportunity for hands-on learning as students will be able to interact with the system on-site,” said Dave Toso, P.E., senior engineer, MGE. “We look forward to working with Madison College and the students as they implement their new solar installation and learn about how new technologies are rapidly changing the energy landscape and our community grid.”

Implementation of this project will save energy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Electricity generated by the solar array will offset power that would have otherwise been generated using fossil fuels.

In addition to cost savings, the PV solar system will offer numerous benefits to Madison College students and community members. The proposal includes solar electric monitoring technology to provide output data for analysis by students and the public.

Accessible instructional space on the roof of the Truax Campus will allow renewable energy students to conduct periodic inspections of the system to check for signs of wear, weathering and maintenance needs. Students enrolled in related fields such as electrical apprentice, electronics, electrical engineering, industrial maintenance and architecture will also benefit from having access to the PV installation.