GREENTOWN – Most of the new $3-million solar farm that will supply all the power at Eastern High School is up and running and is set to be finished in the next couple of months.
Eastern Howard School Corp. Superintendent Keith Richie said crews started installing the 4,500 solar panels earlier this year as part of plan to reduce the district’s energy dependence. Most of the panels are installed on the schools’ former soccer fields and some have been placed on the roof of the high school.
Now, around three-fourths of those panels are on the grid and producing energy. Some of the panels can rotate to find the best position to absorb the sun’s energy. When the project is complete, it will supply all the electricity to the high school building, Richie said.
He said the district decided on building the solar park as a way to hedge against future increases in energy costs that could cost the schools millions of dollars in coming years.
Now, the project is projected to save the district up to $6 million over the next 40 years.
Richie said the solar farm will be paid off over the next 20 years, and those payments are about the same amount as the high school’s electric bill every year. That means the project won’t cost the school any more money. The solar park does not affect the district’s tax rate.
After the 20-year lease is paid off, the district won’t have an electric or project bill for the high school, leading to millions in savings.
“It’s a no brainer, because we’re paying those electric payments now anyways,” Richie said.
He said the project also qualified for 30-year net metering, which means the district will be credited and paid for any extra electricity the solar farm produces that’s added to the grid.
The project will also be incorporated into the district’s science curriculum. Richie said the high school is putting in monitors so students can see how much energy the solar park is producing every day, and will use it for science education.
The solar farm dovetails with another major construction initiative at the school.
Richie said the district is wrapping up the installation of new soccer fields to replace the old ones where the solar park is now located. Crews are set to begin laying down sod and installing an irrigation system. He said players should be able to use to use the fields by early September.
The soccer fields are the first phase of a new sports complex that will eventually include softball, baseball and little league diamonds, tennis courts, a practice football field, concession stands and a building with locker rooms.
Richie said the project will be built over the next five years and won’t increase the district’s tax rate.