Woodland Elementary District 50 officials have approved where new solar panels can be installed at four schools as part of a plan the district hopes will help the environment and save money.
The plan calls for Siemens Industry Inc. to own, operate and maintain the solar panels, while District 50 will purchase the energy they generate at a fixed bundled rate significantly lower than what it now pays, district spokeswoman Carolyn Waller Gordon said.
"It is up to Siemens Industry Inc. to manage procurement of various federal and state incentives to make the project financially advantageous to Siemens and the school district," Gordon said.
The district expects the plan to save it more than $4.3 million over 20 years.
At its June 28 meeting, the school board approved where Siemens wants to install panels at Woodland Middle School, Woodland Intermediate School and Woodland Elementary East and Woodland Elementary West schools. According to district documents, the panels will be installed on the grounds at the intermediate and elementary schools. At the middle school, some panels will be installed on the roof and the rest will be on the grounds.
"This project is an exciting opportunity for Woodland to continue pursuing sustainability initiatives in a fiscally responsible manner while reducing its carbon footprint," Gordon said.
There is no timetable for when the solar panels will be installed, she said.
"We are still in the investigatory stages of the process," Gordon added.
Siemens projects the new panels would provide 40 percent of the electrical usage at the middle school, 64 percent of usage at the intermediate school and 58 percent of usage at the elementary buildings in Gages Lake.
Before unanimously approving the solar panel locations, school board members discussed if those locations picked could be changed.
Ken Detina, a Siemens business development manager, said the company is in talks with major solar panel installers.
"I'd hate to change it too much," Detina told the board. "But if you don't like this exactly and you want to eliminate one row, that's OK ... but the location will be the same as we've laid it out."
"How we designed it delivers the maximum power moving forward," he added.
Gordon said the district and Siemens have worked together on capital infrastructure and energy sustainability projects for nearly 20 years.
She said the school district plans to incorporate the solar panels in school curriculum.