Lake Park installing solar panels

As the 2015-16 school year concludes at Lake Park High School, I am pleased to share information about a new initiative that will have both immediate and long-term benefits for our two campuses in Roselle.

The school board began progressive discussions in January with Performance Services Inc. to determine the viability of a solar energy project in District 108.

Following months of research, the board recently approved the joint recommendation from administration, PSI and legal counsel to pursue a solar energy initiative that will reduce the reliance on electricity, provide at least five years of incentive dollars to offset the cost of installing the system, and provide a green footprint.

This innovative opportunity was made possible through the Illinois Power Agency when Lake Park applied for and was selected in April as a recipient for Solar Renewable Energy Credits, thereby making it one of the largest school district installations in Illinois. The school leader in this arena is Libertyville Elementary District 70 in Lake County, with several other districts statewide considering similar initiatives.

The installation of approximately 2,900 rooftop solar panel racks at East Campus and 3,400 rooftop solar panel racks at West Campus will commence this summer. The equipment is reliable, UL-certified and stable with no moving parts. Long-term benefits include a low cost of ownership, operations and maintenance.

This initiative has been carefully reviewed by the village of Roselle administration, who ensured that village code allows Lake Park to safely use the high school roofs for solar panels. In fact, the district may potentially extend the longevity of the roofs due to the reduced exposure to the elements.

Lake Park's board of education finance committee spent considerable time reviewing the financing options and significant return on investment (39 percent of current electric usage) for solar energy. The projected $4.4 million budget reflects an anticipated savings of $400,000 effective in Year 1 based on conservative calculations.

In addition to the financial benefits, this green initiative models energy stewardship and reduces carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Furthermore, the opportunity provides a unique connection to teaching and learning. The on-site learning tool offers instructional lessons aligned to the curricular areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Lake Park can look forward with assurances of future demand, especially considering that the state of Illinois has to meet a solar power generation mandate of 182,650 megawatts by 2025. Currently, Illinois generates less than 12 megawatts of solar power. The district will have an option to use the energy credits produced as a private market commodity.

Our school community is enthusiastic to undertake this endeavor that creates sustainable, natural energy while offsetting utility costs. The district's focused commitment to solar energy makes the future bright for us all - providing a financial as well as a global environmental difference.

• Lynne Panega is the superintendent of Lake Park High School District 108. Her column appears monthly during the school year.

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