Olympia's Solar Project Will Generate $200K in Annual Savings

 Over 1,000 kW of electricity will be generated by solar panels in the Olympia school district. (Image Credit: Olympia Superintendent Andrew Wise)

Over 1,000 kW of electricity will be generated by solar panels in the Olympia school district. (Image Credit: Olympia Superintendent Andrew Wise)

The classrooms in the Olympia school district will soon be the recipients of on-site generated solar power.

The district’s five schools--Olympia High School, Olympia Middle School, Olympia North Elementary, Olympia South Elementary, and Olympia West Elementary--will receive solar panels to offset the energy demands of their facilities. The project will consist of 4,194 panels generating approximately 1489 kW (kilowatts), according to Olympia CUSD #16 Superintendent Andrew Wise. The solar panels are expected to reduce the school district’s reliance on electric providers by half. 

“Olympia has always been a forward-thinking school district when it comes to energy reduction and being environmentally conscious,” Wise said. “I heard a presentation from another school district at the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA) Conference in 2016, which led to conversations with Scott Engstrom from Ameresco and investigations and research by our Assistant Superintendent Dr. Joshua Olsen.”

Ameresco will be the energy partner on the project and work in close coordination with Olympia’s Maintenance Director Scott Thornton. The project has been in development since 2016 and construction began in the fall of 2017. The total project cost is nearly $4 million.

The solar panels will be funded through a combination of federally subsidized loans and solar energy credits. The federal funding of the project is worth approximately $600,000. That money will be received in $150,000 yearly segments over the first four years the Olympia school district produces solar power, Wise said.

The solar energy credits will reduce the interest rate on the loans by two percent and help pay for the equipment. With a $4 million loan, this would equate to roughly $400,000 in savings.  

The solar energy will save the district over $200,000 a year in utility costs. With these savings, the loan is expected to be paid off in 15 to 20 years. After the loan is paid off, the additional savings will be allocated to continued efforts to improve energy efficiency in the district, Wise said.

In addition to providing efficient energy and savings, the solar panels will also be used in Olympia's curriculum. The ground-mounted display at the high school was added to an existing outdoor classroom. This solar panel will be utilized by staff and students to learn about the production of solar energy.

“The school district is committed to saving the tax payers’ dollars, reducing reliance on others, and teaching our students skills to help them obtain positions in STEM related fields,” Wise said.

The project is expected to be completed in May 2018.