Northside Elementary School Goes Solar Powered

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Contractors completed the installation of a 130 kilowatt solar power system on the roof of Northside Elementary School this week.

The 292 panels in the system will create about a third of the energy of the building, which also houses the Coulee Montessori school. The photovoltaic system is expected to save the La Crosse School District approximately $11,000 in utility expenses each year, or more than $400,000 over the life of the system.

The painting was fully funded at no cost to the district. Solar on La Crosse Schools, a volunteer group of more than a dozen parents, students and community members, led the fundraising effort. In addition to private donations, grants have also been awarded by the La Crosse Community Foundation, the Couilliard Solar Foundation, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and Hammond Climate Solutions.

SOLS director Ben Golden notes that the switch has a triple bottom line. “Utilities are the second largest annual expense for most school districts. If the school district can avoid some of these costs, it keeps money in the classroom,” he said. “At the same time, this project will keep carbon out of our atmosphere and provide a great opportunity for kids to see how clean energy works and what it looks like.”

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Soon, students will also be able to see and touch a spare solar panel that will be hung in the building’s main entrance. A screen will display live information from the inverters in the system, allowing students to monitor and track the amount of energy produced by their school.

“It’s an incredible educational opportunity,” says Golden, “and systems this size have a real impact on the global effort to reduce carbon emissions.”

He notes that over the estimated 25-year life of the system, the panels will create the same amount of energy as burning about 3 million pounds of coal. “It’s something the students and the community can be proud of, and it shows the dedication of this community to our children and the environment they will inherit.”

Golden says Solar on La Crosse Schools will continue to work with the district to identify sites for additional solar installations. The group is currently fundraising for a 33-kilowatt rooftop array at La Crosse Polytechnic School based on the project and a 36-kilowatt outdoor solar classroom at Summit Elementary School, the theme school for the district environment.

The group is accepting donations for the projects at https://www.solaronlacrosseschools.org.

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