Solar energy is the radiation from the Sun that reaches Earth’s surface. It can be captured and used to heat air or water and can also be used to generate electricity. The Aldo Leopold Nature Center (ALNC) captures and uses solar energy through a combination of photovoltaic, active, and passive solar technology to provide energy and temperature control for the building.
Madison Gas & Electric Renewable Energy Center
MGE is working with the Aldo Leopold Nature Center to showcase educational technologies, including a state-of-the-art system which will reduce ALNC’s overall energy use by 50% compared to conventional systems in a similar building. MGE is a leader in renewable energy and has spearheaded renewable energy systems throughout the community.
Electrical Car Charging Station:
We are proud to feature MGE’s Car Charging Station as a service to visitors and as a way to promote new ways of thinking about transportation and energy choices.
The east-west orientation of the new addition better accommodates the solar thermal and photovoltaic panels on the roof to maximize the available sunlight throughout the year.
Madison Gas & Electric Solar Energy Photovoltaic System:
This 17.172 kW Solar Array, manufactured by Sunpower and installed by H&H Solar Energy Services, features 54 modules in three rows. The panels are angled for best efficiency and produce 17.172 kW of electricity at peak, and an estimated annual energy production of 20,918 kW hours per year. The PV system is connected to MGE’s energy grid and generates energy for use at the Nature Center, as well as other MGE customers.
Solar Thermal System:
This system is the primary source of heat for the new building, providing heat for warming the building and creating hot water. This water is stored in large storage tanks located in the Nature Center’s lower level.
The heavy concrete floor slabs throughout the Nature Center facility absorb sunlight and solar energy that enter the building through south-facing windows. When the concrete warms up from the sunlight, it creates a ‘thermal mass’ that releases heat and warms the room for several hours.