Your Green Life: Solon Springs School District moves to Solar Energy

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SOLON SPRINGS, WI– Solon Springs School District in Wisconsin is turning to a natural energy source to fuel its small, K through 12 school.

That endless, natural source of energy is the sun.

The district recently received a grant to install solar panels on the roof of their school, serving as cost reduction and educational opportunity for students.

“The school is trying to do its best maintain cost but also then set a standard for, we need to cut the usage of energy and here’s a very good way to do it,” says Solon Springs School District Superintendent, Frank Helquist.

In partnership with Solar Legacy Co-op, the district was able to receive a grant to install a 100 kW rooftop solar array.

President of the Solon Springs Educational Foundation, Mark Stensvold says, “they contacted me and said, do you think there is anyone in Solon Springs, like the school, like the village who would be interested in taking advantage of a grant to put solar panels on the roof.”

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has awarded the district a $124,500 grant which is half of the cost of the project. It’s something the district had considered before but money prevented the effort.

“expenses putting them in outweighed what we could afford to do as a school district, but with this process that we came up with now, we have found the funding,” says the school’s Maintenance Manager, Mark Dahlberg.

The remaining funds will come from the co-ops revolving loans which pairs the district with private investors.

Helquist says, “this is a project we feel we will get no less than 20 to 30 years usage with these panels.”

But for the district, it’s about more than just reducing electrical costs.  Math and Science teacher at the school, Joanne Zosel says, the project  will “help get off the reliance on fossil fuels because that is a huge detriment to our environment.”

The Superintendent says it’s an educational opportunity for students and the community. He says, “a solar project like this is important for budget reasons. It reduces what we spend long term. There is a social consciousness issue. So people feel good because it is reducing admissions and everything else.”

The school will have a kiosk in the entrance of the school that will show the energy usage, how much the school is saving, and how much they are spending.

Zosel says, “this would do it for us, this is a clincher, this is a game changer. It could get a lot of people really excited about solar.”

Solon Springs was one of 31 applicants to be awarded nearly $5million in energy innovation grants by the PSC.

Ashland, Bayfield County, along with the Drummond and Washburn school districts received grants for similar initiatives.

The Solon Springs solar array will be built next summer.

Jessie Slater

Jessie Slater

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