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Sustainability at MGSD

Monona Grove High School Solar Project

The solar panels at Monona Grove High School have been powered on and are now providing environmental, educational, and fiscal benefits for our district and community. Click here to see some drone footage of the paneling on the high school roof. 

This is the largest (to-date) solar PV array on any K-12 school in the state. These panels cover about ⅔ of the high school roof and will supply about half the building's electrical needs. Using conservative estimates, the project is expected to save the district $1.5 million dollars over the lifetime of the array. The actual dollar amount saved will depend on the cost of electricity over the lifetime of the panels. The cost of electricity produced from fossil fuels, like coal, will almost certainly continue to increase over time. With solar, we pay upfront and then receive free energy thereafter. The project is funded through two grant awards totaling $300,000 and $1 million in borrowing. The loan is guaranteed to be paid back with the savings from electrical bills.

 The project was proposed and championed by the Monona Grove School Board’s ad hoc Sustainability Committee made up of School Board members, community members, teachers and students.

solar panels on high school roof

Covering about 2/3rds of the roof, the panels will provide about half of the building's electricity. Click the image to enlarge.

 

 

How much electricity will it produce?

The panels will cover about 2/3 of the high school roof with a capacity of 674 Kilowatts. They are designed to provide about 845 Mega-Watt hours of power each year - about half the building's electrical usage.

The red box shows the contribution of this project to the district's past and proposed energy saving projects. Click the image to enlarge.

 

What are some of the environmental benefits?

This project will replace coal-fired electricity that currently powers our district. Over the 30 year lifetime of the array it will offset the burning of more than 16,000 tons of coal, reducing harmful coal-related air emissions, including:

  • over 44,000 pounds of smog-producing nitrogen oxide emissions
  • 5,400 pounds of particulate emissions
  • 2.8 pounds of mercury emissions
  • and 31,000 tons of carbon dioxide!
     

What are the financial benefits?

Using conservative estimates, the project is expected to save the district $1.5 million dollars over the lifetime of the array. The actual dollar amount we save will depend on the cost of electricity over the lifetime of the panels. The cost of electricity produced from fossil fuels, like coal, will almost certainly continue to increase over time. With solar, we pay upfront and then receive free energy thereafter. 

The project is funded with $1 million in borrowing and two grant awards, totaling $300,000. The loan is guaranteed to be back with savings from electrical bills.

This project will be cash flow positive in the very first year. In the first year of operation we will save about $20,000, and the savings are projected to increase each year.

The Contractor is providing a "performance guarantee." They guarantee a minimum level of savings regardless of any unanticipated conditions. 

 

Why was the high school chosen over other buildings in the district?

Because it offered the largest positive impact - environmentally, financially, and to both our communities in Monona and Cottage Grove.

There are seven buildings in the district, and the HS is currently the largest electricity user, consuming over 28% of the electricity budget for the entire district. Over the years, our district has collected energy use information on all facilities, so it was easy to see where the largest consumers and the largest opportunities existed.

In addition to the financial and environmental benefits at the high school, this facility is one of the most visible in the district with positive impact to the most people. It houses over 1,000 of the district's 3,500 students, and our sports and art programming draw students, families, and members from all parts of the community.

 

History of Sustainability

Since 2009 the Monona Grove School District has been working to save energy and tax dollars, primarily through energy efficiency guaranteed performance contracting. This process invests in improvements that will save the district money over time by making the district's infrastructure more efficient. It is estimated that these improvements are saving the district $250,000 each year.

 

Monona Grove Sustainability Committee

The MG School Board's ad hoc Sustainability Committee was created in 2019 to provide guidance for developing the district's environmental sustainability. This committee consists of school board members and members of the school community (including community members, family members, teachers and students) with expertise and interest in sustainability.

The committee worked to collect energy use data for all facilities in the district and identified opportunities for energy and cost savings. 

With school board and administrative backing, in October - December 2020, the committee worked together to write and apply for a grant from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin as part of their Energy Innovation Grant Program. In April 2021, the District was awarded $250,000 from the PSC. The committee also applied for $50,000 from Focus on Energy, which the district was awarded. And an additional $30,000 from FOE is expected.

If you have questions about the work of this committee, don't hesitate to contact school Board Member and committee chair Peter Sobol at peter.sobol@mgschools.net.

 

Current Members:

  • Matt Bittorf
  • Krishna Elwell
  • Lisa Gundlach
  • Mary Konz
  • Lynn Laszewski
  • Teresa Radermacher
  • Ken Walz

 

Past Members:

  • Cynthia Kelm-Nelson
  • Tyler Kuehl
  • Sophia Melde
  • Olivia Stauffacher
  • Lilly Stern