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Dairyland Power expands solar energy program

Dairyland Power expands solar energy program

INDEPENDENCE, Wis. (WKBT) - The increasing use of solar energy remains sky high.

To contribute to sustainability, a local organization is teaming up with schools for solar energy projects.

Dairyland Power Cooperative is partnering with Western Technical College in Independence for its Solar for Schools renewable energy initiative.

The solar generation project will be brought online at Western's Independence campus and will feature 36 panels to generate renewable energy for the campus.

Solar panels are becoming a popular source of energy both locally and nationally.

"It's pretty clear that the trend in the energy field is to more and more renewable sustainable resources."

Because unlike several years ago, the cost of solar power is much lower.

"Historically they were very expensive and took a long payback but the cost and the quality of solar has come down dramatically especially in the last two or three years," said Brian Rude, vice president of External and Member Relations at Dairyland Cooperative.

Industries like Dairyland Cooperative and Western Technical College teamed up to build four solar arrays which have nine panels wired in each. It's a project aimed to use the sun's energy for a few reasons.

"If we're going to try to keep down the cost for students, in terms of tuition we have to also keep down our energy cost and this will help us with that, said Patti Balacek, dean of Workforce and Economic Development at Western Technical College.

The panels use GPS positioning to track where the sun will be, and will produce an estimated 12,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year, offsetting the campus' energy use by nearly 15 percent.

"On the sunny days it'll produce energy for the campus that they won't have to get from other sources, they won't be buying it from the utility and the utility in turn wont be making it from a coal plant." said Jeff Springer, Dairyland manager of Energy Efficiency and Technology.

Because of solar energy, the future is looking a little brighter.

"The reduction in our energy is an important part of this puzzle but truly what Dairyland saw in their vision and what we were asking for was a way to train students who are also excited about this technology," said Balacek.

"If we're going to grow the use of renewables, and make that something that's broadened into the future, we've gotta get a younger generation interested in this type of technology in both supporting it and maintaining it and using it," she said.

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