Max Markuson DiPrince
Students give dismantled solar panels a second life in rural Iowa
Almost 200 solar panels saved from an early demise are now powering five of 13 buildings at the Creighton University Retreat Center in Griswold, Iowa.
The rescue mission was conducted by three Creighton students who, under the direction of Andrew Baruth, PhD, professor of physics and director of sustainability, dismantled some 400 solar panels sitting above a University parking lot along the south side of Cuming Street near the North Freeway.
Sustainable energy science students Max Markuson DiPrince, MS’23, Alex Webert and Carlos Ayala adopted a research project aimed at repurposing the panels, which were targeted for removal to make way for the $75 million CL and Rachel Werner Center for Health Sciences Education.
“There are a wide, wide, wide variety of research topics that students pursue here at Creighton,” DiPrince says. “One of the big things that we had to do in this particular project was to understand how solar energy works. Chemistry, of course, but also financial research, understanding returns on investment, power-purchase agreements, tax incentives. Financial matters are extremely important. They make solar energy possible.”
When their research failed to identify cost-effective alternatives on the Omaha campus, the students turned to the retreat center, where 192 panels now sit in four rows of 48 panels each.
“The panels were only about halfway through their lifespan, and had 10 to 15 years left,” says DiPrince. “We needed to devise some sort of plan.”
The plan the students researched and implemented is not only is easing the retreat center’s energy burden but also contributing to the wider community’s energy needs.
“We here at the retreat center are always looking for opportunities to be a good community partner with Griswold,” says Kathy Kemler, retreat center director, “and we now have the opportunity to channel any excess energy the panels produce to MidAmerican Energy, which makes us a contributor to the community.”