BHSU goes solar

Black Hills State University is investigating a project to install solar panels on the roofs of four buildings on campus. Courtesy photo

SPEARFISH — Black Hills State University is about to go a little more green while saving more gold.

BHSU is investigating a project to install solar panels on the roofs of four buildings on campus.

“We want to be known as the campus that cares about the environment, cares about the Black Hills, and cares about our surroundings,” said Kathy Johnson, vice president for Finance and Administration at Black Hills State University.

The solar panels would go on four different buildings on campus — the Young Center, Woodburn Hall, the Life Sciences Laboratories and the library. Each panel would be tied directly to that building and would reduce the energy BHSU would have to buy from its two providers right now.

The panels are made at GenPro, a Piedmont-based company that produces and installs solar and wind power utility systems.   

“It’s critically important for us to be a green campus. We feel it’s a part of who we are,” said Johnson.

BHSU currently pays 3 cents per kilowatt hour to Western Area Power Administration. Six months out of the year, BHSU exceeds its allocation from WAPA and then buys power from Black Hills Energy at a rate of 12 cents per kilowatt hour. The solar power will replace the power bought from Black Hills Energy.

The first-year cash savings is projected at $10,000, according to information sent from the South Dakota Board of Regents.

“BHSU would be the only college in the state of South Dakota that (has) solar panels. There are other schools in the country that do it, especially in the south,” said Randy Culver, director of Facilities Services at BHSU.

The solar panels will produce an estimated 1.5 million kilowatt hours, or approximately 17 percent, of BHSU’s electricity use over a year.

“We are working on a plan to contract with a third party, so the panels would not cost us anything. The third party would own the panels, and we would buy the electricity from them,” said Corinne Hansen, director of University and Community Relations at BHSU.

According to Hansen, the panels are expected to last 40-50 years.

Johnson believes the solar panels will benefit the students of BHSU.

“We really feel like it’s more important to our students than it even has been before. So we’re hoping that it will have a connection with them. By saving energy, we’re saving money, it means we can reinvest in other things. That could help students experience here,” Johnson said.

BHSU expects the panels to be installed this summer.

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