An array of solar panels has been installed on the roof of the Transportation Services facility following a yearlong process of study and proposals.

Next summer, another array will be installed atop Cornelia Elementary. Together, they are expected to produce a savings to the district of approximately $10,000 in electricity in the first year, with savings estimated to grow to about $45,500 in 10 years.

While several district buildings were reviewed as potential solar sites, those two buildings were identified as providing optimal conditions for the district’s first venture into solar energy.

The district considered solar options in 2011, but poor roof conditions, the lack of a strong request-for-proposal process and concerns about economics led to the decision that the timing was not right. In March 2018, the Clean Energy Resource Teams, a local nonprofit working with the State of Minnesota’s Office of Enterprise Sustainability, approached the district about the Solar Possible program.

Solar Possible is an initiative that facilitates a joint request-for-proposal process for state agencies, local governments and school districts within the Xcel Energy service area. Participation in the program entails no initial cost.

“All the pieces have fallen into place,” said Eric Hamilton, director of buildings and grounds. “The new transportation facility and a new roof on Cornelia Elementary offer the right locations, and Solar Possible has resolved our other concerns, providing a great opportunity.”

Proposals from three prequalified vendors were evaluated based on electricity rate schedule, system size, expected first-year production, starting rate, rate escalation and product guarantee. Mouli Engineering, a Minnesota company, was approved to install solar arrays by SolarPod.

According to Mouli, the installations reduce electricity losses along transmission and distributed lines, save land use, and efficiently utilize roof spaces. Distributed solar generation uses existing grid infrastructure and therefore reduces grid burden.

The solar system at the Edina Transportation Building is an 81-panel system producing 29.97 kW of solar at full sun. It will generate roughly 30,000 to 33,000 kWh each year, which is equivalent to 23 tons of CO2 each year (five cars or three homes-worth of consumption).

An eight- to 10-panel solar array specifically geared toward academic use will also be installed at Edina High School next summer. The student-led Project Earth club raised funds for the purchase of the array, which will be oriented for data collection, comparison, and other studies. The electricity generated by the array will feed into the Project Lead The Way lab at the high school. A specific location for the installation has not yet been determined.

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