Monona Grove High School will soon be home to a 674-kilowat rooftop solar panel array.

Monona Grove High School will move forward with the installation of a 674-kilowatt rooftop solar panel array after a July 14 vote from the Monona Grove School Board.

Board members voted last Wednesday to approve a guaranteed energy savings contract with McKinstry Essention, LLC, a construction engineering company.

“Essentially, this is the contract that puts the solar panel project... into motion,” said Katy Byrnes Kaiser, Monona Grove director of communications and community engagement.

The process to install solar panels on the roof of the high school began in January 2021, when board members approved a $250,000 grant application to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC), with intent to use that grant to help fund the solar panels.

In March, the school district was awarded that $250,000 from the PSC, on top of an additional $50,000 from Focus on Energy (FOE), a Wisconsin-based energy efficiency and renewable resource program.

District staff said the construction process will begin in September 2021, three months later than expected.

“We originally had planned to get this project started by the beginning of summer so we could be done by the time school started,” said Business Services Director Jerrud Rossing. “Unfortunately, that did not happen due to the fact that once we were awarded the grant from PSC, we needed to work through some other contract things.”

Rossing also said the delay has caused “a little uptick in cost” from an initially projected $1.2 million to a now anticipated $1.3 million.

“That’s due to the fact that the project got pushed back,” Rossing explained. “With everything that everyone’s experiencing during COVID, there’s obviously a supply chain issue, and in addition to that, prices are increasing.”

Despite the rise in price, representatives from McKinstry said the project will still be highly profitable for the district.

“The pricing did come a little bit higher, but I think we’re still excited about this being a positive cash flow from year one,” said Brent Schmidt, a senior program manager at McKinstry.

In January, School Board Member Peter Sobol estimated the solar panels would offset approximately 50% of the school’s annual energy consumption.

Sobol also reported at a January school board meeting that the utility cost savings that would result from the panels after one year of use would be approximately $83,861.

The estimated total lifetime benefit of the project would be nearly $2.5 million, district staff confirmed in March.

Byrnes Kaiser said the solar panel installation could be complete by late December 2021 or early January 2022.

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