EAU CLAIRE — A Chippewa Valley Technical College alumnus’ donation of an solar panel system will provide clean power for a building at his alma mater and teach students about sustainability.
CVTC students learning about solar and wind power generation are helping to install the 80-kilowatt system at the Energy Education Center on the college’s West Campus in Eau Claire.
“It will be very beneficial for us to get that real-life experience,” student Barrett Boeckmann of Osseo said in a news release. “It’s not just looking at an array; it’s actually working on it and installing it.”
Students began installing racks to hold the solar panels on Tuesday and began adding the panels themselves on Friday.
Cal Couillard, who graduated from CVTC in 1975 from what was then the fluid power technology program, donated the solar power system through his Couillard Solar Foundation. The foundation previously sponsored solar power projects at Eau Claire Memorial and North high schools among more than 100 he has supported for various nonprofit organizations.
“Getting this technology into the technical colleges and high schools is really important,” he said in a CVTC news release. “We want the students to see how this technology works.”
While his support for other projects often requires the recipient to put up matching funds, Couillard’s personal connection to CVTC led him to simply donate this system.
CVTC already has a wind turbine and solar panels to produce power and give hands-on education to students at the Energy Education Center, but Couillard’s donation is a major upgrade.
According to Adam Wehling, dean of agriculture, energy and transportation, between 5% and 10% of the center’s power is currently generated through on-site wind and solar. Once Couillard’s system is online, that will rise to about 40%.