Bethel adds solar carport

Special to The Kansan
This spring Bethel College has added a solar powered carport to campus. The solar carport  includes two electric car charging stations.

It’s hard to miss the new structure that has sprung up in the Luyken Fine Arts Center parking lot at Bethel College, with the aim of increasing campus energy sustainability.

The solar carport, which includes two electric car charging stations, came from the efforts of Bethel alumni Richard and Donna Zerger of McPherson, with the support of nine other alumni and friends.

It’s also part of Bethel’s work toward joining a nationwide movement, called the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, to address climate change through high-visibility actions on campuses.

The Zergers “were looking for a way to help Bethel College increase its use of solar energy to meet its electrical needs,” said Richard Zerger, who taught chemistry at Bethel from 1995 until 2010, when he retired.

“The idea of a solar carport grew out of a conversation I had with Roger Reimer,” Zerger said.

Reimer works on the maintenance staff at Bethel and has been integral to developing the existing solar collection system on the roof of Schultz Student Center, just to the north of the parking lot.

“Roger Reimer was (also) key to the development of the solar carport project,” said Brad Kohlman, Bethel vice president for institutional advancement, with support from Tim Sweigert from Kansas Electric and Mark Horst from King Solar.

“Roger is a good steward of natural resources, and has a passion for reducing use of fossil fuels,” Kohlman said. “He’s known for that,” along with his maintenance vehicle, a golf cart he converted to solar.

“He has the knowledge and experience, and he helped us make informed decisions and put us in touch with the right people for building the carport.

“King Solar and Kansas Electric were very excited about this project and easy to work with.”

Kansas Electric served as the general contractor. Regier Construction and King Solar built the structure.

“The solar carport photovoltaic system is fully integrated with the system installed previously … and adds 52,000 watts of panels to the existing 9,000 watts on the roof of the Schultz Student Center,” said Zerger. “Together they form what I see as the ‘Bethel Energy Center.’

“The college has been very supportive of the project (as) part of a larger pledge Bethel has made to reduce its carbon footprint.”

A gift from the Class of 2012 started the student center solar project, with a second gift, from the class of 2014, adding to it.

Zerger has long had a strong interest in promoting alternative energy. He installed solar panels for home heating and a wind generator in the early ’80s, a wood furnace in 2010, and a solar electric system from King Solar for his farm and home use several years ago.

In addition to Donna and Richard Zerger, Bethel alumni and friends Steven Waltner, of Benton; Chuck and Pat Friesen, of North Newton; Jim and Shirley Goering, of North Newton; Robert and Barbara Waltner, of Mulvane; and Kay and Mark Weidner, of Lancaster, Pa., also contributed to the solar carport project.