MPS solar project nearing completion

Panels at five school sites will offer energy savings

Photo by Deb Gau A crew from solar developer Solar Connection worked on a rack of solar panels outside Southview Elementary on Monday afternoon. Solar Connection is in the process of installing solar panels at each of Marshall Public Schools’ five main locations.

MARSHALL — There’s been some new activity outside Marshall Public Schools over the past couple of weeks with work crews installing rows of solar panels outside each school building.

The project to add solar energy to MPS buildings will not only help the district save on electrical costs, but offer some educational opportunities for students, district staff said.

At Monday’s school board meeting, MPS Director of Business Services Dion Caron said solar panels have been placed on racks outside Park Side Elementary, Southview Elementary, Marshall Middle School and Marshall High School. Construction is also ongoing for a rack of solar panels at the new career and technical education center MPS is building on North U.S. Highway 59.

The project is expected to by complete by the end of November or before, Caron said. The energy generated by the solar panels will save the school district an estimated $22,400 per year.

The Marshall School Board approved the solar project in April. The project was made possible with funding from the Minnesota Commerce Department’s Solar For Schools grant program. A total of $16 million was appropriated for Solar For Schools grants statewide, with $8 million available for schools located within Xcel Energy’s service territory, and $8 million for schools outside Xcel Energy territory – like the schools at MPS.

The total cost of the MPS solar project is $584,865, Caron said. The grant covers 85% of total costs, leaving MPS to pay the remaining 15%. Of the district’s portion of the project costs, $35,092 will be covered by construction funds, and $52,638 will be covered by capital outlay funds, he said.

With an estimated $22,400 in annual energy savings, the solar project would reach a breakeven point after 2.5 years, and provide savings to the school district after that, Caron said.

Work to build the racking and install solar panels is complete at all school sites except the CTE center, Caron said. Some of the electrical work has been completed as well.

The power will need to be turned off at Park Side and MHS in order to tie the solar installations into the electrical system at those schools, Caron said. That will be done on Thursday, when there is no school, he said.

In addition to energy savings, the panels will also offer an example to teach Marshall students about solar energy, district staff said.

“Next year we will hopefully be adding some solar energy curriculum, which will provide ongoing student learning in the areas of math, science, ag, and trades,” Caron said.


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