IUSD moves forward with ambitious solar plans as corporate partners pay construction costs

Vehicle shade structures outfitted with energy-generating solar panels are quickly taking shape in the parking lot behind IUSD’s District Office, and rooftop solar panels may be coming soon to a school near you.

The silent renewable energy systems are expected to save IUSD approximately $8 million in energy expenses over 20 years – and that’s based on conservative estimates. Best of all, they’re not costing the district a cent to build or maintain.

You may recall that in December 2009 the IUSD Board of Education approved a historic agreement with SunEdison and SPG Solar to establish solar photovoltaic power systems – commonly known as solar panels – at 16 sites. The first phase is now underway.

Under the terms of deal, IUSD will incur no upfront capital costs. SunEdison will finance, build, operate and maintain the systems, enabling the company to take advantage of tax credits that public agencies can’t leverage. In turn, IUSD will purchase energy at a reduced rate that is predictable long-term.

The units, part of a districtwide campaign to walk a greener path, will also be integrated into the curriculum, allowing students to learn about solar power while monitoring their own energy consumption in real time.

“In this fiscal environment, with state revenue continuing to drop precipitously, our district is pulling out all the stops to get the most out of every penny,” Superintendent Gwen Gross wrote in December. “Recycling programs have been ramped up districtwide, conservation campaigns are being led by our students, parents and staff, and new schools are utilizing the latest energy efficient technologies. Going solar was the logical next step.”

While IUSD initially considered installation at a single middle school, the district ultimately began looking at how best to utilize its 2.5 million square feet of roof space.

The schools and sites involved in the initial phase were selected based on feasibility, and nearly all will have the solar power units installed on their rooftops. Because the District Office doesn’t have enough rooftop space, the Board approved the construction of shade structures, which are essentially high-tech carports, to hold the panels.

To check out a list of participating sites, and to view construction plans, click here.