Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 22, 2018

Ribbon cutting for Pekin’s solar array

Array expected to save $12,000 per year in first five years
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Mar 30, 2018

PACKWOOD – Pekin High School will host a ribbon cutting ceremony at 5 p.m. April 9 to celebrate the installation of a solar array.

The school turned on a 223 kilowatt solar array in late December. Superintendent Dave Harper said it is supplying 80 percent of the electricity for the high school, day care and bus barn.

“This is our next step forward trying to ensure that we’re doing everything we can not only to cut costs, but also to be environmentally friendly,” he said.

Harper said the district’s contract with the solar provider, Red Lion Renewables of Norwalk, locks it in paying 8 cents per kilowatt, compared to the 13 cents per kilowatt it was paying to Alliant Energy. Harper estimated the solar array will save the district $12,000 per year for the first five years, at which time the district plans to buy the system outright. After that, savings are expected to rise to $15,000-$17,000 per year.

“The panels should be good for 25-30 years, and the system can last as long as 35-40 years,” Harper said. “There are no moving parts like a wind turbine, so nothing gets worn out.”

Pekin High School principal Tim Hadley said the solar array is all part of the district’s goal of providing life-long learning.

“For us, the decision to go solar was a win-win,” he said. “The amount of learning potential as well as the fiscal and environmental responsibility this provides will pay dividends for decades. This is an exciting time for Pekin and I look forward to the future.”

Red Lion Renewables, with support from local investors, funded the project. It owns and operates the solar array. The company received tax credits the school district couldn’t take, and leases the array to Pekin schools based on the electricity it produces. Pekin schools saves on every kilowatt hour of electricity produced by the solar array without risks for operations, weather, equipment, or maintenance.

Additionally, the school and developer are considering planting native prairie around the solar array to provide habitat for monarchs and other butterflies and pollinators to add to a science, technology, engineering and math program around the solar technology.

“Just think of the number of kids, tomorrow’s problem solvers, that we can inspire with a network of solar arrays on schools throughout the state,” said Terry Dvorak, CEO of Red Lion Renewables. “It takes people who care. Yes, it saves schools money. Yes, it makes a good return for an investor. Yes, it’s the right thing to do. It takes investors and community members that are willing to think outside the box and start a new norm ... people like me that just want to do their part in making a difference.”

Dvorak said that adding solar to all 340 school districts throughout the state in similar fashion to Pekin schools could alleviate over $1 million in school budgets annually and more than $70 million over the next 30 years.

“And for the environmentalists out there, such an initiative would be equivalent to planting 810,000 trees each year for the next 30 years, something we can all agree on,” stated a news release from Red Lion Renewables. “Look for more schools, cities, and churches to follow the lead of Pekin schools and go solar in such a fiscally responsible way.”




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