Institute for Energy receives Lodestar Award for solar energy leadership

Rachel Heckman, University Communications & Marketing | 01/17/2023

Innovative Leadership in Solar Energy

The Institute for Energy at Saint Francis University recently earned the Lodestar Award by the Pennsylvania Solar Center in recognition of its investment in clean and renewable solar energy. State Senator Louis Schmitt, a proud alumnus of the university who spoke at the virtual awards ceremony congratulated Saint Francis, as well as seven other state entities.

award logo

“We are so pleased to present these organizations with the Lodestar Award, which recognizes them for their visionary leadership in choosing to invest in sustainable solar energy,” said Sharon Pillar, executive director of the PA Solar Center. “Solar energy is the way of the future, and we hope that their inspiring commitment and stewardship will be lauded and emulated across the community in the years to come.”

The Tiny House

summer camp students posing in front of Tiny House classroom at SFU
Summer camp attendees pose in front of SFU's Tiny House which is one of the solar initiatives honored with a Lodestar Award

The Institute for Energy's Tiny House  project was one of the SFU initiatives highlighted. The Tiny House is a mobile power lab, an 8-foot by 20-foot classroom on wheels, where visitors can experience and learn about renewable energy, efficient living, and producing a smaller environmental footprint. The unit features a 1.68 kW solar array with battery storage and shows the potential for solar energy, even in often cloudy western Pennsylvania. The classroom has generated much interest as it has traveled around the state.

“Saint Francis University appreciates the recognition for our educational tiny classroom project,” said Michael Sell, project coordinator at the university’s Institute for Energy. “We are thankful to the many supporters who have funded the project and for the positive feedback we have received from the community.”

In addition to the Tiny House project, the Institute for Energy at Saint Francis has been involved in community outreach for many years. It currently offers free renewable resource assessments to agricultural producers and rural small businesses, guiding those entities in the planning process and helping them to determine the best energy solutions for their property. Although solar energy is the most popular form of renewable energy now, the Institute can also provide guidance on wind and other renewables as well as energy efficiency.

Solar Array

In the future, the university will also be installing a ~5 kW solar array at the new Connors Family Fine Arts Center, thanks to a grant given by the Penelec Sustainable Energy Fund of the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies. The solar array will provide a tangible example of solar energy on campus and be used as an educational model for students and community members visiting the center. The project will be completed in partnership with Dr. Richard Flarend, a professor of physics at Penn State Altoona and the owner of Groundhog Solar.

Other mentions in the news:
Next Pittsburgh: 8 local organizations honored for their green energy leadership