Dairyland Power Offers Solar for Schools

When it comes online this fall, Dairyland Power Co-op’s Solar in Schools Initiative will add to its renewable holdings, including this 520-kW installation in Westby, Wis.
When it comes online this fall, Dairyland Power Co-op’s Solar in Schools Initiative will add to its renewable holdings, including this 520-kilowatt installation in Westby, Wis. (Photo By: Suzanne Long)

School superintendent Steve Sedlmayr is looking forward to this fall, when the campus in Alma, Wisconsin, will get a whole lot greener.

That’s when a 45-panel solar installation near the school’s playground will officially come online, joining a geothermal heating and cooling system already in operation.

The new facility will provide students an “understanding of the importance of energy conservation and how effective, reliable and cost-effective alternatives are being developed to improve our daily lives,” said Sedlmayr, who’s also high school principal.

The K-12 school in western Wisconsin is one of three public schools selected for Dairyland Power Cooperative’s Solar for Schools Initiative. The La Crosse-based G&T selected the schools because of close proximity to power plant facilities, and for other reasons.

“Our plant workers send their children, our future members, to these schools and solar is part of our future. What better way to show our commitment to community?” said Jeff Springer, the G&T’s manager, energy efficiency and technical services.

Data generated by the solar array’s monitoring system will allow each school’s students and teachers to monitor hourly and daily energy output, environmental benefits and other metrics.

The G&T’s vendor will provide curricula for different grade levels and train teachers on ways to integrate solar energy into the curriculum.

“As [students] move through the grades, they will learn about different sources of energy and will understand the science concepts as to how these sources work and how they are an important part of our energy resources,” said Sedlmayr.

Each array costs $50,000 and installation will take place this summer. Each set of panels will generate about 14,500 kilowatts per year, about what a typical home uses each year. Dairyland will maintain the panels for the schools over the next 25 years.

Because space at the three schools is limited, the G&T had considered installing rooftop panels, said Springer. “But we were worried we’d have to replace a roof. In Wisconsin roofs have a 10- to 15-year life span,” he said.

At the Alma school, the array will go behind the school on its playground. “Dairyland Power Cooperative is not only the largest employer in our community, but they are a good neighbor, along with Riverland Electric REC,” the school’s electric provider, said Sedlmayr.

The initiative is Dairyland Power Co-op’s second solar project announced this year. In February, it finalized agreements with two developers to buy more than 15 megawatts of renewable energy from utility-scale solar facilities in Wisconsin.

Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer at NRECA.

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