Cloud Co. Comm. College Sun Power Solar Farm Operational

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Cloud County Community College’s Renewable Energy Technology program had a ribbon for its new energy-generating Sun Power Solar Farm Thursday, January 10. The solar farm consists of up to 300 kilowatts of solar panels, and is on the hill south of the college.

During her welcome, CCCC President Adrian Douglas said Cloud County is leading the way in solar energy use in the state.

“These actions directly support our guiding value of sustainability, and help fulfill our mission of preparing students to lead successful lives and enhancing the vitality of our communities,” Douglas said.

Douglas said the construction of the solar farm would not have been possible without the support of the Dane G. Hansen Foundation, which awarded the college a $150,00 grant, or the USDA Rural Development, which gave the college a $100,833 grant. The college Board of Trustees committed $50,000 in matching support of the grants.

“This project provides students with hands-on experience in a working solar farm, as well as providing energy to the college.” Douglas said. “Thank you to both of these organizations for these awards.”

Sun Power Solar Farm is part of the new solar energy technology training, which is now being offered at Cloud under the Renewable Energy field of study. The program is intended to train students to become solar project designers, installers and operation technicians. The solar farm was designed and built by CCCC Solar Energy students.

Douglas also thanked representatives from USD 333 for their support in providing classroom space for the solar energy technology program. Funding for the classroom space came from the Cloud County Commissioner’s Meridian Way Wind Farm gift fund.

“Because this space will be housed at the USD 333 Tech Center, it provides immediate access to a technical program for high school students,” she said.

Andrew Clark, Renewable Energy Technology instructor, said construction began on the farm in July 2018, and much of the infrastructure work was completed by Cloud solar energy technology students.

Clark estimated that in a year, the solar farm will save the college $40,000-$42,000 in electrical costs. Combined with the electricity generated by the two wind turbines, he said, one-third of the college’s electricity will soon come from renewable energy.

Bruce Graham, retired department chair of the Wind Energy Technology program, also spoke during the event. He said solar energy is becoming more and more efficient and cost effective.

“Thirty-six percent of energy in Kansas is produced by wind energy,” Graham said. “And solar can be in the same place as wind, but it’s just getting started.”

Benefits to installing residential solar panels, Graham said, include lower electrical bills, a smaller carbon footprint, and they are easy to install.

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Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.