Westar Energy, Baldwin City, Kansas, and several students from local Baker University collaborated on the Baldwin City Solar Field, a 1-MW PV solar array.
“The solar farm project is a great opportunity for students to gain exposure to a very interesting project almost in their own backyard,” said Kevin McCarthy, professor of business and economics, Baker University. “They are learning about sustainability and renewable energy. Students studying environmental science have additional opportunities for learning about the impact of such a facility on the site. Additionally, there are great real-world examples for understanding project management applications.”
City administrator Glenn Rodden, Mayor Casey Simoneau, and Silas Dulan, Westar’s director of diversity and inclusion, spearheaded the project with the intent to provide sustainable energy to the community and involve students in a unique educational opportunity. Through the project, city and utility officials involved the students in the planning process, project management and implementation of a major energy project from conception to operation.
Baker business students had hands-on experience with the array, learning from Westar officials on the business plans, project management and procurement of materials to build the renewable energy farm.
Biology students assessed the grounds before the solar panels were installed, performing a preconstruction survey to categorize the plants and animals in the area, assessed the soil and designed the site to provide habitat for endangered Monarch butterflies. The students also provided input for the preservation of wildlife, runoff water and reseeding plants, while physically replanting grasses around the solar panels. The project also called for monitoring the impact of the solar panels on wildlife in the area.
News item from Baker University