Gideon School installs solar panels

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Staff Photo/ Courtney Luke The Gideon School District has installed a group of solar panels which are projected to save the District $15,000 per year in utility costs. Michael Deprow and Perry Pikey of Perry Pikey Construction installed fencing that surrounds the new panels.

"As tight as budgets are now," said Gideon School Superintendent Jim Breece. "We saw it as a win/ win situation" of the school's opportunity to install solar panels to offset utility costs within the District.

Breece explained that Larry Bradford, the President of Southern Solar Systems approached the City of Gideon and then the Gideon School District with a plan to save money.

Bradford is a solar specialist who retired from NASA and has the company's main office in Huntsville, Alabama near the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

Southern Solar prides themselves on having the expertise and experience to solve energy needs and specializes in various renewable energy solutions.

"We looked at the projected savings... That's $80,000-$100,000 for ten years," explained Breece.

He also made clear that these panels and their installation will cost the Gideon School District nothing.

Ameren offered a rebate to anyone who would put panels in. For their assistance, Southern Solar Systems will earn the rebate while the school shares in the cost savings.

If after seven years, the District feels the panels have not met their needs, they can return them. There is also an option to buy the panels at a reduced rate at that time.

When the panels have been used for twenty years, ownership will automatically transfer to the school.

As part of the lease agreement, Gideon School District will pay only 50% of savings gained by the panels to the company. Projections are that each year $15,000 will be saved in District utility costs. Half of that will then go toward the lease payment.

Breece explained that the meters are already running and the panels are already producing energy.

On days when the District is not using much electricity, such as when school is not in session, any unused energy will be sold back to Ameren. Special meters were installed that run backwards indicating this occurrence.

Each of the five panels belonging to the school produces 2,500 Kilowatts of electricity.

Due to the large panel size and weight, the panels were installed on the ground outside school buildings instead of on the roof. Breece explained that roof installation would only add to maintenance problems already created by having flat roofs.

The City of Gideon also has several solar panels that assist with their utilities. A few of those panels are located on the school property adjacent to the school's panels.

In addition to being a cost savings tool, the District hopes these panels can also be used as an educational tool.

Breece explained that projects are available for the students to perform and learn from using the solar panels.

Breece and the School Board were also pleased that savings earned from these panels is funding that can go toward student academic activities.

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