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Tracy schools to light up with solar arrays

TRACY — Tracy Area Public Schools will be lighting up savings with its own solar arrays in the near future.

The Tracy School Board voted 5-1 to place the array on the west side of the high school and directly to the east of the elementary school soccer field. Board member Ben Ludeman was the sole “no”vote and refused to comment.

There had been a choice of two sites for the high school array. In addition to the chosen site immediately on the west side of the school, there was a patch across the driveway to the parking lot to the northwest side of the school that was considered.

“Construction will start this fall, and, dependent on weather may have to be completed in the spring ’18,” Tracy Superintendent Chad Anderson said.

The schools are working with Ideal Energies, LLC in Minneapolis to construct the arrays.

“Years 1-12 TAPS will receive 25 percent of the savings which equates to roughly $55,916. Ideal Energy will receive 75 percent of the savings which helps pay off the system,” Scott Bosacker said. He is the commercial business development manager of Ideal Energies, LLC. “From year 13 on TAPS will receive 100 percent of the energy produced and that year’s savings alone should top $27,000.”

As the cost of energy continues to climb, so does the value of every kWh (kilowatt hour) these PV solar arrays produce, that are not having to be purchased from Xcel, he said.

 “Technically these arrays are not part of the what is considered a solar garden, since they are owned by one party the Tracy Area Public Schools,” Bosacker said. He then shared the definition of a solar garden from solargardens.org:

“A solar garden is a community shared solar array with grid-connected subscribers. Homes and businesses, even if shaded by trees, receive a bill credit as if the panels were on their own roof using ‘virtual net metering.’ The Solar Gardens Institute (SGI) promotes the development of community solar arrays.”

 “There will be five separate solar arrays, but we will be grouping them close together in two different spots on the schools grounds taking up roughly just over an acre,” Bosacker said. “Three of them will be 20 KW and the other two just under 40 KW each.  Last fall we helped Mr. Anderson put an application in for each of the three school buildings in the final Made in Minnesota — Solar Lottery, which is administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.”

He added that Tracy’s High School and Kids World were two of the 134 Xcel Energy served commercial applicants that were awarded grant funds this year, which helps pays for roughly one-third of each of the systems cost. 

“The other three arrays are utilizing the Solar Rewards rebate program, which is a first-come-first-served solar funding program and will again cover about one-third of each solar array’s cost,” Bosacker said. 

 The addition of these arrays will present an opportunity for Tracy Area School students to use the solar arrays as a class project. 

“Ideal will be offering a solar curriculum for our teachers,” Anderson said. 

“All of the arrays have a real-time monitoring system on them, so the students can track their production down to the minute,” Bosacker said.

Anyone interested in learning more about solar arrays can contact Bosacker at 612-928-5008 or visit Ideal’s website at www.idealenergies.com.

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