|2/20/2014 1:39:00 PM|
Three out of the five district buildings receive solar funding
by JEFF NORTON
A lengthy application process finally paid off for the Chisago Lakes School District when it was announced at the school board meeting on Thursday, February 13 that three of five district school buildings will receive funding for clusters of solar power panels. The three schools to receive the funding are the Middle School, Lakeside and Taylor Falls Elementary. The installation cost is $722,000, but the district doesn’t pay any of that out of pocket. Instead, numerous grants are involved in the project and a financier -- John Jaffray of JJR Power -- for the first six years. In those initial years, the district will see 20 percent savings on their energy costs, while the other 80 percent goes back to JJR Power. After six years, all of the energy savings is realized by the district. The panels have a 25 year warranty and should last between 25 and 30 years.
An estimate on six percent inflation of energy means the panels should save over $7,000 per year early on, but that number will reach just over $27,000 per year by the end of the 30 years. Those savings are per building, which after paying debt off should result in about $370,000 per building over 30 years, according to Jamie Borell of Innovative Power Systems, the company that will be installing the panels. Over the last 10 years, the average energy inflation has been 5.5 percent. This year alone, Xcel Energy asked for a 13 percent hike. “It’s hard to predict the future but I see even the six percent inflation being low at some point down the road,” Director of Buildings and Grounds Tim Burton said.
Borell did draw up estimates for two and four percent inflation also, and even in those unlikely scenarios, the district would save anywhere from $180,000 to $255,000 per building over the 30 year lifespan of the panels. The panels will make the districts finance more sustainable. “It helps us know our costs of electricity 30 years ahead and fixes those costs to the cost of the system,” Collins said. Collins, a middle school science teacher, was also excited about the possibility of tying the project into teaching, saying that if kids can see the panels, they may realize they can be the change in the world. Because of that, Collins said he wanted to have at least one ground panel at each site so that kids can go up and touch it and see it up close. The project also would reduce the district’s carbon footprint by 2.25 million pounds of Co2 over the 30-year life of the panel.
The district entertained the idea of having a floating graduation starting in 2015 because of the problems caused this year by the inclement weather. Traditionally the ceremony has been on a Friday, which makes sibling travel and the logistics of the event easier. Graduation would still fall on a Friday more often than not, but it would allow for flexibility in an abnormal year like this when so far four days have been cancelled because of the weather. No changes were voted on, however.
The school is also exploring advanced security at the buildings, which would involve locking the front doors and having students buzz their way into the buildings. Superintendent Joe Thimm also said that the cameras could be upgraded to get a more clear picture of what’s going on outside the buildings.
Director of Curriculum Sarah Schmidt noted that the Class of 2015 will have to deal with a new test on their plates. Currently, for Title 1 Accountability, students have to take the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA), or the MCA-Modified test or the Minnesota Test of Academic Skills. In 2015, the requirements will still be the MCA or MTAS, but along with the MTAS, students would also have to take the Career and College Assessments test, which is still being developed. “Which is lovely,” Schmidt said sarcastically. “There is a rumor that it is going to be rigorous.” By the Class of 2016, students will only be taking the Career and College Assessments.