Glenbard High School District 87 is bringing solar power to one of its campuses as more suburban schools are drawn to the cost savings and environmental benefits of the renewable energy source.
A $2.7 million project will install more than 2,900 solar panels on the roof of Glenbard East High School in Lombard. The solar array will provide power for about 40% to 45% of the building and allow the school to cut planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1,000 metric tons each year.
“Not only is it a smart thing to do financially, it really sends the right message to students and the community in terms of what kind of district we want to be,” Assistant Superintendent Chris McClain said.
The project is slated to receive $1 million in rebates and renewable energy credits to offset the cost. With its expansive, relatively flat roof, the Lombard school is the first in the district to use solar panels in a large-scale capacity.
But two others — Glenbard North High School in Carol Stream and Glenbard South High School in Glen Ellyn — may be ideal candidates for solar power, depending on the availability of financial incentives through the Illinois Power Agency’s Adjustable Block Program.
“The other key determinant for us would be the environment at the school,” McClain said. “Do we have sufficient enough amount of roofing that is current for it to make sense? Because it wouldn’t make sense to put panels on roofs that need to be replaced over the next couple three years.
The district plans on starting the installation in May. The roof-mounted solar array is expected to be complete and generating power by Nov. 30.
In the short term, the system will generate roughly $125,000 to $150,000 in savings on electricity costs, according to estimates. In the long term, the district could reap as much as $250,000 in savings annually.
The district has not yet made a decision on how to fund the project. But the school board’s finance and facility committee has considered issuing debt and then using the incentives and energy savings to make the bond payments.
“Then after the savings match the cost, any future savings could be used for other areas of reinvestment, whether there are other projects that we want to do in other parts of the district, or those are just dollars that are available to the district to invest in instructional programs,” McClain said.
District 87 now joins Libertyville Elementary District 70, Huntley Community School District 158 and Grayslake Elementary District 46 in adding solar panels to schools.
“This system will deliver significant cost savings and a clean, sustainable energy source long into the future,” Superintendent David Larson said in a project announcement. “The system will also provide our students and staff with a rich learning opportunity.”
The district’s energy conservation vendor, Performance Services, Inc., offers a partnership with the National Energy Education Development Project to provide a solar curriculum program for students.
The panels, manufactured by Jinko Solar, reflect a district mission to reduce energy costs. Two other schools — Glenbard North and Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn — have received the Energy Star certification by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The designation recognizes energy conservation in public schools.