Local schools get solar panels for education, lower energy costs

Three local schools will be using solar panels in the classroom next fall as part of a new partnership with Dairyland Power Cooperative, part of its Solar for Schools Initiative.

Alma, Cochrane-Fountain City and De Soto Middle School and High School students will have new solar panels at their schools come next fall.

The principal in De Soto, Linzi Gronning, said what she is looking forward to most, besides the fact this is all being done for free, of course, is the educational opportunities have the panels on campus will provide.

Within the next few months, the hillside behind De Soto Middle and High School will be the new home of 45 solar panels.

Gronning said having all the solar panels will have the biggest benefit in the classroom.

“We’ll be able to adjust our curriculum, because we have these actual solar panels on site. So we’ll be looking at some curriculum modifications in science, weather, and climate, math, finances, as well as career planning for students,” Gronning said.

“Each school will have an online monitoring system, so the kids and the teachers will see the environmental benefits, the power generated and a lot of other fun, interesting metrics that they can track in real time,” Katie Thomson, senior communications specialist for Dairyland, said.

The three schools were chosen, because they are in Dairyland’s service area. The power co-op will install and maintain the solar panels for the schools over the next 20 years.

“Part of this is being a good neighbor also providing renewable energy benefit and a great educational tool for kids and adults,” Thomson said.

The panels are expected to generate about 14,500 kilowatts per year, which is a little more than a typical home uses annually. The renewable energy will go directly into the school to offset energy use. Gronning said it could power the lights in the gymnasium for an entire year.

“We’re a small district, and small benefits make a big difference in our fiscal management,” Gronning said.

The whole system is estimated to cost around $50,000.

The solar panels will be installed over the summer, so they are in use by next fall.