Osseo Area Schools has entered into an agreement with the iDEAL Energies to install solar array panels at 13 buildings.

During a Dec. 3 work session, Osseo Area Schools Board members were introduced to a proposal to add solar panels and participate in a Solar Rewards program with iDEAL Energies and Xcel Energy. The board voted to approve the agreement at its regular meeting on Dec. 17.

Through the program, solar arrays are provided and installed by iDEAL Energies on the roofs of 13 district buildings. From there, energy is used on-site and purchased at a discounted rate for 10 years from iDEAL Energies, rather than Xcel.

Through implementation, the district could save 30% on energy costs, or a total cumulative savings of $200,000 within the first 10 years, Executive Director of Finance and Operations Ron Meyer said at the Dec. 17 meeting. If excess energy is produced, which Meyer said will be unlikely, it would be returned to the grid.

The district will take ownership of the system, but no district financial investment is required. After 10 years, the agreement can be terminated, and the district would have full control of the system and its energy production.

The plan is to use utilize solar technology to increase the district’s utility cost avoidance, Meyer said. This program was identified as a creative method to keep up with constant financial pressure due to state funding not keeping up with the rate of inflation over the past several years. Since 2016, the district’s financial staff has fought financial pressure through various efforts to increase other revenue or decrease expenditure items, including investments in long-term facility work.

“Our intentionality and deferred maintenance work has resulted in an annual 22% energy cost avoidance since 2016, which equates to over $1 million per year,” Meyer said.

Looking ahead, if the district were to terminate the lease in 10 years after installation, it would be able to take advantage of all of the energy production, therefore the cost avoidance and utility costs would increase significantly, Meyer explained. Even after the district would take on the cost of insurance and maintenance, savings are projected to be significant. If panels are kept and maintained on all 13 buildings, the district is expected to save $1.8 million between years 11 and 25, and could save $4.5 million, cumulatively, within 40 years.

Solar panel installation is being considered at the following district buildings: Edinbrook Elementary, Fair Oaks Elementary, Garden City Elementary, North View Middle, Palmer Lake Elementary, Park Brook Elementary, Park Center Senior High, Zanewood Elementary, Osseo Area Learning Center, Zanewood Elementary, Osseo Area Learning Center, Birch Grove Elementary, Osseo Education Center, Brooklyn Middle and Crestview Elementary.

Before voting on an agreement to work with iDEAL Energies, School Boardmember Heather Douglas said, “I just would like to say that I am really excited to see that our district is taking initiative to reduce our impact on our resources in the community.”

School Boardmember Jackie Mosqueda-Jones said, “I am in a school building currently that has solar panels by this company, and what everyone else might not be aware of is that there’s also opportunities for academic learning around the solar panels and the energy.”

Other board members also chimed in to show their support for the solar panels and thanked district staff for their work on the project. Ultimately, the board unanimously voted to move forward with the solar panel agreement with iDEAL Energies.

Meyer said the next steps of the project will include finalizing the contract by Dec. 31, having engineering staff review each roof, coordinating construction and installation of solar panels, and once they are operational, working with the department of leadership, teaching and learning to consider curriculum utilization. Construction is projected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2020, Meyer added.

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