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SSP School Board gives go-ahead for installation of solar panels

Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019 — At their meeting on Jan. 28, the South St. Paul School Board approved entering into an agreement to install solar panels at Kaposia Elementary. The action is the culmination of nearly a year of research and negotiation to assess the viability and sustainability of such a project.

solar panels on school In April 2018, the South St. Paul School Board approved a non-binding letter of intent to work with the State of Minnesota, Department of Administration – Office of Enterprise Sustainability (OES) to share information, evaluate potential options, and perform site visits on the subject of installing solar panels in the district. Through this process, the district identified Kaposia Education Center as a potential site of solar panels, given the age and structure of the building.

Last fall, interested solar developers were required to submit proposals to OES, which then identified a preferred vendor, IPS Solar. South St. Paul Public School representatives from district administration and school board, met frequently with IPS Solar to determine the viability of the project and alignment with district strategic directions and resources.

Director of Finance Aaron Bushberger and Director of Buildings and Grounds Glen Birnstengel were involved in many of the conversations over the last year about whether solar was a good option for South St. Paul Public Schools (SSPPS) “We have participated in many meetings with the Solar Possible team and IPS Solar, and engaged with our architects, roofing companies, insurance agent and other school districts who are participating in a solar program, to determine whether this was a good decision for our district,” Bushberger said. “Overall, we were impressed with the knowledge, experience and passion the representatives from IPS showed, and we are excited to be able to move forward.”

The School Board reviewed the proposal and engaged in extended discussions about the proposal. According to Birnstengel, in the end, it was determined that “there are projected cost savings by implementing this project, with very limited downside risk. Not to mention an improvement in energy efficiency with a commitment to more sustainable and environmentally conscious energy production.” He noted that the panels are lightweight, compact and will not be visible from the ground level. And when asked about negative impacts to the roof of the building, company representatives noted that in their almost 30 years of experience, they have not had any roof issues after installing solar panels.

According to Superintendent Dave Webb, the benefits of the project reach beyond operational savings. “IPS has a number of school clients, and as a result, has developed a curriculum and professional development program around solar energy specifically tailored to schools,” he said. “And there is a potential alignment with our STEM and IB curriculum and focus areas, engaging our students in real-world learning experiences.”

SSPPS has been participating in the solar initiative through CERTS (Clean Energy Resource Teams). CERTS is a joint venture between the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Division of Energy Resources and the Great Plains Institute. The initiative is for a collaborative solar purchasing program for State agencies, local governments and school districts.