Solar energy powers Hillel house

Electrical workers install solar panels on the Hillel house, making it the first building on campus to utilize solar energy. photo by Mitch Taylor
Electrical workers install solar panels on the Hillel house, making it the first building on campus to utilize solar energy.
photo by Mitch Taylor

One student organization will shine a new light on renewable energy with the addition to solar panels to their campus building. Bradley’s chapter of the Jewish student organization Hillel will soon become the first university group to power their building with solar energy.

The project first launched two years ago, but financing issues prevented the construction of panels from becoming an immediate reality.

“We checked out at least a dozen different [finance] models,” Yona Lunken, Hillel corporation board president and adjunct professor of entrepreneurship, said. “We looked at grants, we looked at running it through a business, but we eventually found a group to underwrite it called ATTOLLO,” Lunken said.

ATTOLLO is a local investment group that covered the majority of costs. Lunken personally covered the remaining costs. The panels are expected to be a viable source of energy for Hillel for the next 35 years, according to Lunken.

Lunken also said solar power is looking to be a much more better option to traditional methods of energy, and the outlook and demand for a more environmentally-conscious source of energy is inevitably on the rise.

“The cost of solar [energy] has come down about 60 percent in the past 10 years,” Lunken said. “But still, the whole country is running on less than 1 percent solar, and in the next two years, they will double in installations and jobs.”

Lunken said he thinks this recent advancement into renewable energy will inspire the rest of campus.

“The thing is, when you do a change, you have to model that change,” Lunken said. “We’ve shown it’s possible, and that we can do it.”

Hawk Energy Solutions owner Jason Hawksworth agreed that Hillel’s investment in solar energy could create a domino effect for other campus buildings.

“[Lunken] and this organization have created a path, but there’s also a lot of things going on at the [Illinois] state level … that are creating a marketplace that make solar energy more conducive,” Hawksworth, who is presiding over the construction of the panels for the Hillel building, said.

According to Lunken, in addition to solar energy, Hillel is environmentally active by recycling and having a house with good insulation and a zone AC/heating unit that conserves electricity throughout the building.

Hillel is planning a celebration day to commemorate its achievement.

“The celebration event will take place during Passover, which is in April,” Lunken said. “We’ll have a bunch of people there to talk about it. We’ll have a time lapse, some presentations and speeches.”

Lunken and Hawksworth have devoted their time and vision to Hillel, and Lunken said he’s looking forward to all of the perks that come with keeping a green building on campus.

“I got naming rights to what will be referred to as the ‘Yona Lunken Solar System,’” Lunken said.

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