Solar energy coming to Grayslake high schools

 
 
Posted12/3/2016 7:45 AM
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  • This is an artist's rendering of what solar panels will look like at Grayslake Central High School.

    This is an artist's rendering of what solar panels will look like at Grayslake Central High School. Courtesy of Grayslake High School District 127

  • This artist's rendering shows what solar panels will look like at Grayslake North High School

    This artist's rendering shows what solar panels will look like at Grayslake North High School Courtesy of Grayslake High School District 127

Grayslake's two high schools are installing solar panels in a move projected to reduce energy costs and make its mark statewide at completion.

Michael Zelek, associate superintendent of Grayslake High School District 127, said crews are working on what is believed to be the largest solar project for an Illinois public education system. Lake Park High School District 108 in Roselle also is in the process of placing solar panels on the roofs of its two buildings in the village.

District 127 board members authorized borrowing $5.9 million through a bond sale to investors for the panels that will help power Grayslake Central and North high schools. Work began a couple of weeks ago and should be done by March, weather permitting, Zelek said.

Sun power might save both schools a combined $9.8 million in energy expenses over 25 years, according to District 127 projections. Officials said the goal will be to pay off the $5.9 million debt before deciding where to direct the expected annual cost savings.

Superintendent Catherine Finger said District 127 has been working for several years to reduce its carbon footprint. The sun's rays are expected to generate for the two schools 2.9 megawatts daily, or 32 percent of the power the schools use.

"This solar project is an exciting and financially sound way to produce clean energy and provide a learning tool for our students," Finger said.

Performance Services Inc., which has a Schaumburg office, will install 1,920 solar panels on most of Grayslake Central's roof. At Grayslake North, 2,245 solar panels will be placed on nearly the entire roof and 4,590 panels mounted on a vacant 25 acres on campus.

District officials said the panels are expected to generate the equivalent of the electricity needed to power 268 houses in one year. If greenhouse gases are reduced as projected by 2,542 metric tons annually, that would be like removing 537 cars from the road in a year, according to the district.

Tied into the solar panels will be a classroom curriculum program to include online access to production data from the panels.

Performance Services will sponsor the program developed by the National Energy Education Development Project. The nonprofit organization pushes for comprehensive energy education in schools.

Solar renewable energy credits are expected to become an income source for District 127 as part of the deal with Performance Services. The district intends to sell excess solar credits to utility companies that need them to meet certain energy-use requirements.

Libertyville Elementary District 70 officials cited a desire to take a slice out of electric bills by having solar panels installed at the largest two of its five schools in 2014. District 70 officials said the $3.2 million system placed on the roofs at Butterfield School and Highland Middle School were expected to result in a minimum of $3,000 to $5,000 in monthly savings.

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