Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s Solar on Schools Initiative is Rewriting the Solar School Narrative: 11 Wisconsin Schools Go Solar in the Program’s First Year
Wisconsin schools are increasingly going solar, thanks in part to the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s (MREA) Solar on Schools initiative. In the program’s first year alone, 11 grants were awarded to Wisconsin schools. These projects have collectively added 1,739.4 kW of solar capacity to Wisconsin’s electrical mix, creating enough electricity to power 274 homes, and will offset the equivalent of annual greenhouse gas emissions produced by 350 passenger vehicles. By going solar, these schools are able to offset energy costs that can be reinvested into school programming. These investments also provide a unique opportunity to expose students to careers in the growing clean energy industry by incorporating live solar energy tracking into STEM curriculum.
Grant recipients include:
- Merton Intermediary School, Merton Community School District
- Merton Primary School, Merton Community School District
- Madison West High School, Madison Metropolitan School District
- Eau Claire Memorial High School, Eau Claire Area School District
- Eau Claire North High School, Eau Claire Area School District
- Forest Edge Elementary School, Oregon School District
- Marshfield High School, School District of Marshfield
- Madison College, Fort Atkinson Campus
- Madison College, Reedsburg Campus
- Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Green Bay Campus
- Midstate Technical College, Stevens Point Campus
Madison West High School was one of the program’s grant recipients, installing a 126 kW system in October of last year. Charles Hua, a 2018 Madison West alumni and former West Green Club President, helped spearhead the fundraising campaign for the PV system, which is anticipated to provide the district nearly $14,000 annually in energy savings. “As one of the largest youth-led sustainability efforts in Wisconsin, this clean energy initiative […] will provide students with hands-on learning opportunities in a growing clean energy job market, generate savings in electricity costs that will save taxpayers money, and reduce the school’s carbon footprint.” The district also passed a 100% renewable energy resolution in 2019 with intermediate goals to meet 50% of all operational energy needs with renewable energy by 2030, 75% by 2035, and 100% by 2040.
Both of Eau Claire Area School District’s (ECASD) high schools went solar through the program as well. Sarah French serves as the Executive Director for the Eau Claire Public Schools Foundation, which fundraised over $291,000 for the installation and maintenance of two 126 kW PV systems atop Eau Claire Memorial and Eau Claire North High Schools. “We are so excited about this project and the incredible impact it will have for our students! This generous community has shown up time and again for our schools, and this awesome project is no different. The educational value it brings, in addition to its economic and environmental impact, is remarkable!” Commissioned in December of last year, the two systems’ performance data will be incorporated into the high schools’ STEM curriculum and will save the ECASD approximately $20,000 annually in utility costs.
Formed in partnership with the Couillard Solar Foundation in late 2019, Solar on Schools aims to help 40 Wisconsin schools realize the financial, educational, and community benefits of going solar. The program includes an in-kind module donation grant valued up to $20,000, an online resource center, as well as case studies and solar school FAQs to help schools get started. Interested schools can find out more about the program at www.midwestrenew.org/solar-on-schools. Grant applications will be accepted on a rolling basis.
MREA’s Amanda Schienebeck serves as Program Manager for the Solar on Schools Initiative, “Solar school installations like these represent high-impact, high-visibility projects that bring the community together to collectively learn about the process and benefits of going solar. By investing in solar, passing 100% renewable energy resolutions, integrating energy education into curriculum, and cultivating the next generation to be leaders and have careers in the industry, schools can lead their communities into a clean energy future.”