The University of Saint Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary is activating a new solar array facility that will eventually provide more than 20 percent of the campus’ energy. Configured in a cross shape, the array is visible from 20,000 feet above and is the first solar array on a Catholic seminary campus and the first to be installed in the Archdiocese of Chicago. The project will provide significant cost savings for the university and represents a commitment to clean energy in line with Catholic social teaching.
“As we approach the centennial of Mundelein Seminary, it is exciting to complete a project that will both help the institution financially and provide sustainable energy for years to come,” said Father John Kartje, rector/president of USML/Mundelein Seminary. “This solar facility will also serve as a physical reminder of our biblical responsibility to be good stewards of the earth and its resources.”
The project began more than a year ago, when Father Kartje had a conversation with David Brochu, a longtime supporter of Mundelein Seminary with nearly 20 years of professional experience in the clean energy field. His PureGen Power, LLC company has helped the university to develop, construct and operate the 300 kw (AC) solar farm on its campus. The project has also benefited greatly from the support of the university’s Board of Advisors.
“Clean energy is our future, and the Village of Mundelein proudly acknowledges the seminary’s forward thinking and leadership,” said Mundelein Mayor Steve Lentz. “Their example will serve as a catalyst for others to follow.”
One of Brochu’s first steps was to take advantage of the Illinois Power Agency’s Adjustable Block Program, which supports solar energy projects across Illinois. The university was accepted into the program and will receive funding for more than one third of the construction costs, which Brochu said was vital to the feasibility of the project for the university.
The solar facility itself is owned and operated by USML Laudato Si Solar, LLC, a limited liability company formed by a group of investors who are leasing the land from the university. The company’s name references Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical entitled “Laudato si’: On Care for Our Common Home,” which addressed the Catholic Church’s commitment to environmental issues and sustainability.
The investors will sell the power back to the university at a discounted rate, which is estimated to save the university more than $1 million over the 35-year life of the array. Eventually, the university will take ownership of the facility and maintain it.