MUM inaugurated its new 1.1-megawatt, five-acre solar array west of campus on December 14, after a ceremony and official launch by President John Hagelin. The new solar array is designed to provide one-third of all the electricity used by MUM.
The MEG’Array Solar Power Plant is the first system in the Midwest to combine two leading-edge technologies on a large scale: active tracking and vanadium-flow batteries. In addition, the power plant is run by an artificial intelligence learning computer to optimize energy production and consumption.
The active tracking system allows the panels to follow the sun as it moves across the sky, yielding 15-20 percent more energy than a fixed tilt array. The system also enables each row to operate independently to further optimize solar production. In addition, the sensors of the solar array can detect strong winds, storms, snow, and floods and direct the panels to rotate for protection. The vanadium-flow batteries are capable of operating for decades without any loss of efficiency and are very safe.
“It’s an important day in the history of the university’s quest to achieve a carbon neutral campus within the next eight years and to contribute to a healthy and sustainable planet,” said President John Hagelin. He also said that with the new array, 43 percent of MUM’s electricity usage will come from renewable sources, and the array is expandable.
The solar array was installed by Ideal Energy, a Fairfield company founded in 2009 by MUM alumni Troy and Amy (Greenfield) Van Beek.
The MEG’Array Solar Power Plant is owned and operated by an Iowa LLC delivering electricity at a cost savings to the university. MUM Trustee Tom Factor is the managing partner of the LLC that owns and operates the MEG’Array. He began his involvement in renewable energy at MUM in 1992 and has since pioneered the development of 60 Midwest wind farms generating over 8,000 megawatts of wind power. He now serves as a trustee with a focus on helping the university achieve its goal of carbon neutrality.
The MEG’Array Solar Power Plant will serve as an energy research facility, with studies being conducted by Ideal Energy, MUM’s Sustainable Living Department, and the Iowa Economic Development Association. This project represents a unique leadership role for the university and community, and the research it generates will help validate solar energy as a solution for colleges, factories, and government policy makers.