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Solar Panels Provide Unique Learning Experience While Saving the District Dollars
South St. Paul Schools (SSPPS) is utilizing the roof of Kaposia Education Center to save the school district money, protect the environment, and provide a unique learning experience for SSPPS students. It's all possible through a State of Minnesota initiative, Solar Possible.
What is Solar Possible?
Solar Possible is a clean energy initiative that helped school districts install solar panels, with no upfront investment, and generate power for the community. SSPPS entered into an agreement with Impact Power Solutions (IPS) to install 880 panels for the district that are expected to generate 408,000 kWh annually. Here are some fun facts about what 408,000 kWh looks like:
- It would cover 74% of Kaposia’s annual energy usage
- It could power 49 average homes per year
- It would charge 36,800,000 smartphones
- To create that much energy from coal you’d need to burn 318,000 pounds. Over 25 years that would be 7.9 million pounds of coal.
According to Brian Keenan, a representative with IPS, the district is in a Power Purchase Agreement with IPS. IPS owns and maintains the system and all the power generated goes directly to the building. The cost of the solar energy is lower than from Xcel. After 20 years, the district will own the panels, which means bigger savings for the district. It is estimated to save the SSPPS about $300,000 in those first 20 years.
Why Kaposia Education Center?
The school board approved the agreement to install the panels on the roof of Kaposia in January 2019. After nearly a year of research and talks with the district’s architects, roofing companies, and insurance agents, it was decided that Kaposia was the best location. Buildings and Grounds Director, Mark Fenton says, “ The roof of Kaposia is newer, which makes it a better environment for supporting the panels. It also has a more open, flatter area to make installation easier.” Installation was complete in early December.
It’s a Double Win for the District
SSPPS is looking into the learning possibilities that come from The Sunrise Program through IPS. Superintendent Dave Webb says, “The IB curriculum teaches our children a sense of responsibility as members of our local and global communities. What better way to do that than to let them see and learn about environmental impact initiatives first hand.” The Sunrise Program has curricula for all grades K-12. Students are able to see how sunlight is converted to electricity and can be integrated into Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs at every level. All energy being generated is visible to students and teachers through a site specific dashboard. It includes videos, energy lesson plans and workshops for educators’ professional development. Webb says, “We have this awesome solar generating system in our district that we can use to teach our students about Science and Technology. It’s a win for the district, it’s a win for our students, and it’s a win for our community.”