Hope College is now powering some landscape equipment and electric golf carts by the sun!
A small 2.4 kW photovoltaic system has been installed on top of the Keppel Carriage House thanks to students in the 2019-2020 Intro to Engineering Course.
This carriage house itself is a repurposed building that was moved in the 1990s to its current location between the Jack H. Miller Center for the Music Arts and the Physical Plant Office. The Keppel House was built in 1914 as a family residence. Both buildings were saved and relocated to allow for construction of Haworth Hotel and Cook Hall residence hall.
The latest sustainability effort for the old building is a multi-department solar energy project involving faculty, staff, and students from our Department of Engineering, Physical Plant, Office of Sustainability, and campus Green Team.
Students took the lead in researching and designing the system as well as sourcing the materials and researching the permitting process. This is an off-grid system, so the students also had to develop a storage plan for the energy that was created.
“The system was designed by Hope engineering students in the Introduction to Engineering course. Most of the students in this course are first-year students. Student teams developed a range of potential designs, and then Physical Plant staff selected the system they felt was a best fit to their needs,” said Dr. John Krupczak, professor of engineering at Hope.
“The project was a great real-world example for engineering students. The student teams needed to consider multiple factors such as cost, siting, and use schedules in developing their designs.”
The system was installed by the Hope College Physical Plant team and started to generate power this April. So far, more than 150 kWh of energy have been produced.
“This project has and will continue to offer more energy options for the Physical Plant as a whole as well as the grounds department,” said Bob Hunt, the college’s grounds manager. “The system will be used for charging campus-use carts, the Greenworks electric stand-on 48-inch mower, and handheld grounds equipment. We are in the process of converting all of the Hope carts to electric and are looking to expand the solar collection surface area in the future to expand charging and storage capabilities.”
This collaborative and cross-functional project has been fun to work on because it pulled together people from all over campus and allowed the students to help with a real-world project that will have a direct impact on the campus and the college’s sustainability goals.
While this may be a small project, we know we will continue to learn about how initiatives like electrification of our fleet and solar energy could play a part in our campus sustainability journey.
To know more about other Hope College sustainability projects or programs, please visit
-Michelle Seppala Gibbs is the director for the Office of Sustainability at Hope College.