Rob Hach is CEO of Storm Lake-based Trusted Energy, the firm that’s installing more than 10,000 solar panels in a 30-acre field.
“The project is located to the northeast of the Grinnell campus,” he told Radio Iowa. “It is being connected to the Grinnell campus with a 3,500 foot transmission line underground.”
Estimates indicate the solar field will provide about 30% of the electricity for the campus and reduce the carbon footprint of Grinnell College by about 20%.
“This is definitely something the students want from Grinnell…to be a carbon neutral college,” Hach said.
The solar panels will stand about nine feet above the ground. The 30-acre field will be seeded with native grasses and Hach said the plan is to have sheep graze among the solar installation.
“Once in a while we’ll put some goats out there in order to get the weeds out of the pasture ground, so a solar field, previously a corn field, will be a grazing field,” Hach said. “…It’s a nice rolling hill. The solar field will follow the terrain. It’ll be very complimentary to the landscape.”
Sensors in each panel will help guide it to positions that best capture the sun’s rays.
“In the morning they’ll be pitched to the east and then midday they’ll look flat,” Hach said, “and then at the end of the day they’ll be facing the west.”
Hach expects construction to be completed by the end of the year. In 2019, Grinnell College signed an agreement to buy power generated by the solar field. Hach’s company estimates the college will save about $3 million in energy costs over the 20-year contract.