Byron Public Schools Plan to Increase Solar Power Usage – Post Bulletin

BYRON — Byron Public Schools is exploring the possibility of increasing its reliance on renewable energy with the help of new state funding.

On Tuesday, the school board held a study session and met with Rich Ragatz, vice-president of business development at Ideal Energies. Although the board made no decision at the meeting, it did discuss adding solar panels to the district high school.

If the district goes ahead with the project, it could do so in a number of ways. Both options fall under the recently developed school solar grant program.

“Established by the state legislature in 2021, the Solar Schools Grant Program is designed to stimulate the installation of solar energy systems in Minnesota public schools,” the Commerce Department’s website says.

Byron became eligible for funding through an equation that took into account the school district’s adjusted net fiscal capacity and its number of students.

One of the two programs would award the district up to $102,000. The municipality would not have to pay for the installation or the materials and it would benefit from a 40% discount on the energy produced by the panels for 20 years. After that, he would have full access to the energy they produce.

It would take about 5,000 square feet of space.

“You’ll end up with about $350,000 in net savings over the life of the system,” Ragatz said.

Another option, which is yet to be developed, would return the district a certain amount for each kilowatt hour of electricity created by the panels.

It is not simply a matter of choosing between the two options. The first program is for buildings “located outside of Xcel Energy’s territory,” according to the Commerce Department. The second would be for buildings that use Xcel Energy.

Byron Public Schools uses Xcel Energy as well as a co-op, so they could technically use both options.

Byron School officials are in the early stages of adding their solar power. They spent much of the Feb. 1 meeting asking questions like whether the panels should be on the roof or if they could be on the ground, and how the two programs differed from each other.
The school district already has solar panels that were installed in 2014 as part of an earlier initiative.

Byron isn’t the only neighborhood in the region to dabble in solar power. About ten years ago, a group of students started an initiative to get signs in each of Rochester’s public high schools. In addition to saving energy, Rochester’s solar panels provided another learning opportunity for students.

An educational element will also be part of Byron’s upgrade.

“We also provide educational materials that can be integrated into the classroom,” Ragatz said.

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