Created: 01/30/2014 10:52 PM KAALtv.com
By: Laura Lee
(ABC 6 News) - As many businesses and homes search for alternative renewable energy, more and more turn to solar power.
Assisi Heights is no exception and turns out they now have the largest solar panel farm in Southeast Minnesota.
Solar power is now officially up and running at Assisi Heights.
"It's very exciting," says Assisi Heights President Sister Marilyn Geiger. "It really speaks to who we are as sisters of St. Francis, first of all for education of people, but also our commitment to energy."
Project coordinators did look at wind as another option. "They did a wind farm study and you'd think Assisi on a hill the wind would pick up, but its not steady," says Richard Hines, the facility's director.
So the decision to turn to the sun was an easy one.
"It wasn't even a question," says Geiger.
"We have really, really as a community and as a congregation looked at energy savings initiatives," says Sister Marlene Pinzka, who is treasurer of the board.
Project coordinators also turned to an expert on solar power, Don DeCramer who is an engineer at Mayo Clinic. DeCramer implemented the solar panels at Mayo Clinic.
"As you watch, other organizations are looking into this," he says, "this is a very nice installation."
Very nice indeed and the largest solar field in Southeast Minnesota at 150 kilowatts.
To put that into perspective, 150 kw is enough energy to power 15 to 20 homes.
"For a building this size, that in itself, a ten percent savings is huge," says Pinzka. "If you look at it long term, it should pay for itself in about six years."
"Anybody that's looking at a solar system has to understand and look closely at their energy consumption and look at what their goals are," says DeCramer.
For Assisi Heights, it was to reduce costs and be energy efficient, but more importantly, to reflect the legacy of St. Francis.
"I really believe that we are speaking to the future and care of the earth," says Geiger.
Education sessions and tours of the solar fields will be available this summer. For information head to www.rochesterfranciscan.org under the What We Do/Ecology tab.