Oakton Community College’s Skokie campus adds renewable energy source

A roof-mounted system, consisting of approximately 80 solar panels, is a new addition to Oakton’s Skokie campus.

When Oakton Community College President Joianne Smith signed the American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge in December 2015, the college joined more than 200 higher education institutions dedicated to climate action. One of Oakton’s commitments as part of that pledge was recently realized with the addition of a 25-kilowatt photovoltaic array at its Skokie campus, 7701 N. Lincoln Ave.

Installation of the roof-mounted system, consisting of approximately 80 solar panels, was completed on June 20. In its first month, the system has generated five megawatt hours of energy, enough to power approximately 15,000 light bulbs for one day. This use of solar power has already prevented roughly 3,700 kilograms of carbon dioxide being released into the environment, equivalent to planting 201 trees.

“Incorporating renewable energy is one important way of reducing the college’s impact on the environment,” Oakton Sustainability Specialist Debra Kutska says. “It is also something that is of high value to our students, who regularly tell us this is an area they hope the college continues to pursue.”

In addition to the new solar array, the Skokie campus is home to a test system that is easily accessible for enrolled students and provides them with hands-on experience working with solar panels. Live data from the solar array will soon be incorporated into the college’s existing Energy Dashboard which can be found at www.oakton.edu.

Oakton’s commitment to sustainability is reflected in its mission, vision and values statement in addition to its strategic plan, “Success Matters.”

Oakton President Joianne Smith says, “We understand that we are part of a diverse ecosystem and that the sustainable use of resources is important not just for our operations, but for the community and the world.”

In March, the Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN) recognized Oakton’s green commitment with the College Leadership and Sustainability Award. Recent efforts include the installation of a publicly available electric vehicle charging station at the Des Plaines campus, launch of a new environmental studies concentration, preservation and restoration of campus natural areas, diversion of more than 36 percent of waste from landfills and a student-led initiative to use refillable water containers and eliminate the sale of single-use plastic water bottles on campus.