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Wente and Kildegaard Work on Solar Energy Project

Posted by Jayce Koester ’16, Center for Small Towns on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014

Jordan Wente ’15, Dodge Center, and Arne Kildegaard, the director of the University of Minnesota, Morris Center for Small Towns (CST), have been equipping a Villard dairy with tools to install solar panels at its facility. The project has the potential to positively affect others in the industry as well.

After talking to individuals in the solar industry and at the dairy, Kildegaard and Wente began an analysis of how best to fit the dairy with solar panels that fit its electrical demands. They next created a mathematical model to lay the groundwork for resource optimization. The two then implemented a model that drew from the hourly supply of solar energy and the hourly usage summaries from the dairy itself. Comparing these two sources of information, they created an accurate model of how to match the solar installation with the specific needs and challenges that a dairy has.

The project is attracting interest from other industry professionals throughout the region. In mid-June Kildegaard presented the project and the optimization models he and Wente employed to the executive director of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association. As interest has grown, the Villard dairy has looked at grants to implement the plan.

“I am hopeful that once the tools are freely available, others in the industry will be better equipped to adopt solar and other renewable energy sources,” says Kildegaard. “I think that we’re doing with this project will help to provide some of that groundwork. ”

“I think that this project can greatly incentivize dairies and other large power consuming operations to explore solar options,” says Wente. “It maximizes savings for these types of businesses in an advanced, multi-faceted way.”

CST is a community outreach program that serves as a point-of-entry to the resources of the University of Minnesota. Small towns, local units of government, k-12 schools, nonprofit organizations, and other University units are able to utilize CST’s resources as they work on rural issues or make contributions to rural society. Its mission is to focus the University’s attention and marshal its resources toward assisting Minnesota’s small towns with locally identified issues by creating applied learning opportunities for faculty and students.