Sep 26, 2019 | By: Rachel Johnson

Golden Apple: Solar Schools Project Officially Completed

The official completion of a project long in the works at three school systems in the area was celebrated today. The Solar Schools project installed six solar arrays at the Pine River-Backus and Pequot Lakes school districts and Central Lakes College.

Seven years ago, a group of individuals in Minnesota’s Region 5 area had a dream: to make solar accessible to students no matter their location or demographic.

“Seven years ago or so, the director of Region 5 and I sat down to begin a conversation about how we could integrate solar into our public schools, how we could help our schools reduce their energy cost, their operating cost,” said Jason Edens, RREAL Executive Director.

This last, that dream became a reality, and after a long process, the Solar Schools program officially celebrated the completion of the project.

“It’s a surreal day to be with all of these fabulous partners and have the solar arrays behind us because it’s been such a long time coming,” Central Lakes College President Hara Charlier.

The Solar Schools Program installed a total of six solar arrays in the Pine River-Backus and Pequot Lakes school districts and at Central Lakes College.

“The team at RREAL, they put a lot of attention and detail into every little aspect of installation and I’ve seen a lot of projects through all the different states I’ve been to and the states that I work in, and this one really stuck out,” explained Kevin Corcoran, New Energy Equity project manager.

It was made possible through a grant from Xcel Energy and a partnership between the Region 5 Development Commission, The Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, Sourcewell, and New Energy Equity.

“This project is a big, complex project with many partners, many sites, so there’s nothing like it in the state. What we’ve known for a long time is in this region there is a sense of coming together and collaborating and breaking down barriers,” added Charlier. “And this is an illustration of that.”

In addition to the cost savings the solar panels will bring to the school districts, the solar will be integrated into the curriculum and will offer a huge learning opportunity for the students.

“Today’s youth are making tomorrow’s energy choices and so we’re very excited that our local schools here in north-central Minnesota have an opportunity to have these systems, not only to save the schools money, but as educational assets,” said Edens.

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