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Solar Panels Added to Academic Building

As part of Doane’s efforts to go green, a new feature was added to the Chab Weyers Education & Hixson Lied Art Building: six solar (photovoltaic PV) panels. Senior Tyler Benal and Professor of Environmental Science Russ Souchek are the main representatives behind the new energy source. “When I was a freshman and sophomore, I became really interested in renewable energy,” Benal said. “It’s basically free energy once you set it up.”

The project, which was approved by the Green Committee in the fall, has an estimated cost of $9,000. The energy saved should return that investment in 10 to 15 years. “It’s pure profit after that,” Benal said. “They can last up to 50 years. The median life is 25 to 30 years.”

SWT Energy of Lincoln provided and installed the panels. They offer a 25-year manufacturers warranty on the equipment, so repairs and replacements can be made if necessary.

The solar panels will be used as a counter to the "vampire energy" used by the college. Vampire energy is the energy that is used by items such as LED lights on computers. Doane has approximately 250 college-owned computers and these computers use around 930 watts per month of vampire energy. Vampire energy can account for nearly 15 percent or more of the total electricity used by a computer. “The cost of vampire energy in a typical household is about $130 a year,” Souchek said.

With the help of Facilities Operations & Construction Projects Director Wayne Spary and Facility Services Assistant Director Brian Flesner, Benal and Souchek decided the art and education building would be the ideal location for the new panels. The group looked at a variety of campus buildings including the Lied Science & Mathematics Building and the Communications Building, but chose the Chab Weyers Education & Hixson Lied Art Building because of its location, opportunity for expansion and accessibility.

The solar panels are visible from the ground, which supports the college’s sustainability effort and can be used as a recruiting tool for prospective students interested in learning more about environmental science. “Once the system is set up, we’ll be able to go to a website and determine how much carbon dioxide they’re saving and how much they’re reducing our carbon dioxide output,” Souchek said.

“I’m trying to spread the renewable energy movement throughout Doane,” Benal said. “It has to start somewhere and I thought Doane would be a good place to start.”

Junior Erin Bell created an audio slideshow about the project.