The strategy laid out in the College's Sustainability and Climate Action Plan calls for an initial focus on energy systems retrofits before beginning to pursue on-site renewable energy installations in later years as we pursue net-zero emissions by 2050. Because of the relatively expensive cost of small-scale renewable energy options and our modest endowment, return on investment analysis does not currently support a decision to pursue on-site renewable energy.
Due to substantial student interest in renewable energy, we have begun laying the foundation for those future investments. Kalamazoo College received its first on-site renewable energy in September 2012 with a 1 kW photovoltaic (solar) array installed as the result of a Senior Individualized Project (SIP).
The College also purchases green energy, buying 42% of the LEED Silver-certified Weimer K. Hicks Student Center’s electricity from wind and solar-generated power from Consumers Energy.
Kalamazoo College's First Solar Installation
In September 2012, Kalamazoo College received its first solar installation thanks to the efforts of Kalamazoo College student Tyler Benmark (K'13). The 1 kW photovoltaic (PV) array on the roof of the Facilities Management building is the campus' first on-site renewable energy.
The project was funded as a special project through Facilities Management and the sustainability revolving fund in support of Benmark's Senior Individualized Project (SIP) research. Read more about Benmark's research in The Index
The solar array consists of four photovoltaic panels that have a combined installed capacity of 1 kW. Benmark installed the panels with the assistance of contracted professionals from Solar Winds, from whom the panels were purchased. The output data from the panels is available streaming online for future research.
Green Power Purchasing
As of January 1, 2009, we are buying 42% of the LEED Silver-certified Weimer K. Hicks Student Center’s electricity from wind and solar-generated power from Consumers Energy. This equals a yearly quantity of 360,000 kWh per year and an effective percentage of the College’s total electricity consumption of 4%. The effective cost of that renewable energy is only $750/KW.
Other Renewable Energy Solutions
The College has researched investments in on-site renewable energy. Current budget pricing and estimated payback periods for those technologies are:
- Wind-generated Electricity: $10,000/KW with an ROI of over 60 years
- Solar-generated Electricity (PV Arrays): $8,500/KW with an ROI of over 50 years
- Electricity from Food Service Waste Oil: $4,000/KW with an ROI of 15-20 years.