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School districts can benefit from solar PV adoption: economically and educationally


Mounds View Public Schools recently finished installing solar PV systems on the roofs of 13 school buildings, reported Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERT). In fact, these projects will save the district an approximate $1-2 million in electricity costs over the next 25 years. IPS Solar was in charge of installing the panels over three years without any costs to the school district.

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Accordingly, Mounds View Public Schools now has 13 school buildings with 40 kW rooftop solar photovoltaic systems. Moreover, the electricity produced by the solar arrays goes onto the grid for use in the school and community.

The project and its participants

Indeed, a private investor had the opportunity to finance each school project and receive the incentives. The school district will receive a 10-20% discount on its electric bill for the next 15 years through these projects.

After 15 years of discounted electricity, the school district will become the owner of the solar array. Besides, it will receive all of the energy produced for the next ten years.

Accordingly, the thirteen Mounds View District schools where IPS Solar installed the solar PV panels are Bel Air Elementary, Chippewa Middle School, Edgewood Middle School, Highview Middle School, Irondale High School, Island Lake Elementary, Mounds View High School, Pike Lake Kindergarten, Pinewood Elementary, Snail Lake Kindergarten, Sunnyside Elementary, Turtle Lake Elementary, and Valentine Hills Elementary.

How was this solar installation possible?

Mike Cartwright, Physics Teacher with Mounds View High School, was significantly responsible for making this happen. Accordingly, during the summer of 2014, Mr. Cartwright took a summer class on “Renewable Energy and Bioproducts” for teachers at the University of Minnesota. Then, Professor Ulrike Tschirner provided a hands-on introduction to several renewable energy options, including solar, wind, biodiesel, bio-ethanol, hydrogen fuel, etcetera.

At the course, Mr. Cartwright developed a research project on solar, mainly for the environmental and economic opportunities that this energy source represents. The professor’s research led him to IPS Solar, a full-service clean energy development company that has been in business since 1991.

That was how Mr. Cartwright contacted Eric Pasi, the Chief Development Officer for IPS, and a UMN grad, to discuss a rooftop solar project on his home. While discussing their work, he learned that IPS was involved in a school rooftop project in Chisago Lakes.

Consequently, Eric shared with Mr. Cartwright the opportunities for Mounds View Schools with the current legislation and Xcel programs.

The results and benefits

After a series of talks with different educational organisms, Mr. Cartwright made it possible to lead Mounds View Schools to apply for three school projects in a relatively competitive field of requests. Eventually, after three years of the program, 13 of the school buildings had the 40 kW systems operating.

Thus, IPS Solar worked with the district Operations and Maintenance Department to identify roof space appropriate for a long-term commitment to a solar array. In fact, some roof areas needed resurfacing before the installation.

According to Mr. Cartwright, there are so many benefits related to this installation. The first one is that the district will be able to save over two million dollars in energy costs; as a result, this money can be put into programming for students.

Additionally, this program provides science learning opportunities for students and demonstrates leadership to education providers. Moreover, the Project is helping meet the district’s sustainability goals and increasing community awareness of the district’s commitment to renewable energy.

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