Luther College Wind Energy Project LLC

Location: Decorah, IA
Grant: $500,000
Loan Guarantee: $1,300,000
Technology: Wind


If you happen to drive through northeastern Iowa, you will know when you’ve arrived at Luther College by the spinning wind turbine overlooking campus. Luther is a small liberal arts institution that has made sustainability central to their campus experience.

In 2005, the college created Luther College Wind Energy Project LLC (LCWEP), a for-profit subsidiary of Luther College, which is the project’s sole investor. The new LLC focused on sustainability projects and qualified for state and federal clean energy incentives, including REAP.

REAP awarded LCWEP a $500,000 grant and a $1.3 million loan guarantee in 2009. They purchased a 1.6 MW turbine, which is currently generating around 4 million kWh per year, providing nearly 30% of the college’s electricity consumption.

“We got very serious about our project as soon as we got the REAP grant,” said Jim Martin-Schramm, a professor of religion at the college who worked closely on the project.

Martin-Schramm said the college pursued the project for economic as well as environmental reasons. As an early signatory of the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), the college is committed to reducing its carbon footprint by 50% by 2015 and to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. Thanks in part to the wind turbine, Luther College has already achieved a 33% reduction since the 2003-2004 school year.

Martin-Schramm teaches courses on energy and said the learning experience and public visibility of the turbine have been major benefits for the college.

“[Wind turbines] are iconic,” he said. “It puts us on the map in a way that you just can’t deny, and it is a wonderful teaching tool. Its educational value has been huge.”

Luther College is leading the way in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, and REAP has been a part of that story. Martin-Schramm is enthusiastic about the efficacy of REAP funding.

“The energy that blows over our land and bathes our crops in the sun increases economic resilience by recycling economic benefits in the community,” he said. “Investments in renewable energy technologies promote energy independence, environmental well-being and economic development.”