Sun Prairie West High School Courtyard (2020)

Bray Architects offered this rendering of what the courtyard at the new Sun Prairie West High School will look like once completed in time for the 2022-23 school year.

Acting on recommendations from the district’s facilities and grounds director and its energy and construction managers, the Sun Prairie School Board on June 14 approved a $362,140, 285 kilowatt solar panel array for the new Sun Prairie West High School (SPWHS) that will only cost the Sun Prairie Area School District about $40,000.

“The district has a strong history of incorporating energy conservation practices into its operations, including an investment in energy conserving building components, implementing an energy management conservation policy and hiring staff with the responsibility of managing the district’s energy use,” wrote Kevin Sukow, SPASD Director of Facilities and Grounds; Kevin Splain, Energy and Sustainability Manager; and Paul Korz, Construction Project Manager, in a joint report to the board.

“Most recently, with the construction of Meadow View and Token Springs we incorporated geothermal HVAC equipment and housed them in a prominent area to be used as an educational aid to promote energy conservation. At Meadow View and Token Springs, we also dedicated a portion of our Focus on Energy Design Assistance grant, as well other grants from WPPI Energy and Focus on Energy, to install a 12kW photovoltaic (PV) panel system at each school,” the report reads.

“Early in the design process for Sun Prairie West High School, the district partnered with Bray to make sure that areas of the school roof would be structurally rated to carry the weight of a photovoltaic array if we chose to utilize one on this project,” the report reads.

“We then partnered with HGA to perform an analysis to determine what would be the most efficient location and system to use if we were to elect to place an array at the school. HGA presented the district with an analysis that evaluated the cost, energy generation, return on investment and area of the array design. The cost for the alternate to utilize HGA as the design and construction administrator for the photovoltaic project was $25,900,” the report reads.

“The District and Design/Construction team decided that our goal would be to look at a system that would be cost-neutral when weighed against the grants and other funding sources that would be available that would not take money away from the construction project,” the report reads. “These were identified early on in the project, and we based our funding source estimates on grant projects that we knew were available at the time: Focus on Energy Prescriptive Grants, approximately $38,000; and Wisconsin Public Power Inc. PV Grant, roughly $20,000.”

The team also made the decision to propose allocating all of the Focus on Energy Design Assistance grant towards renewable energy sources as well, which the team estimated to be $250,000.

“Therefore, we determined that our budget goal for the PV array would be $308,000. Between the time the proposal was created and when we submitted for the Design Assistance grant, the level was raised to $300,000,” the report reads.

Also, based on 2020 electric rates, HGA estimated that the 285kW system would allow the district to achieve $22,000 in annual utility savings.

The design analysis that HGA performed indicated that the optimal PV array size that would return the highest kWh per dollar investment would be 285kW.

“This would represent about 10% of the annual electrical usage of the school based on the energy model completed by HGA,” the report reads.

However, based on their knowledge of the industry and rough order estimates from vendors, HGA estimated that a 285kW system would cost SPASD about $467,000.

“It was determined that the output that would most likely fit into our budget goal would be 200kW,” the report reads.

When bid documents were created, the basis of bid was for a 200kW system and asked for an alternate bid for a 285kW system. J.H. Findorff solicited bids for the project in April, bids were received and compiled in May and a proposal was created for the district based on their responses.

The response from Westphal was substantially lower than the other bidders, utilizing all of the equipment detailed on the basis of bid.

“We have also had good working experience with Westphal, most notably as the electrical design-assist partner for Meadow View and Token Springs elementary schools,” the report reads.

The proposal from Findorff was $268,993 for the 200kW system or $362,140 for the 285kW system.

“Our estimated grant initiatives will provide $358,000, and we will continue to work with HGA and our district partners to identify and apply for additional grants that might be available,” the team report concludes.

The board’s action to accept the alternate bid for $362,140 for the 285kW system means the SPASD needs to use an estimated $30,040 of conserved funds or contingency to fund the project which would have a return on investment (ROI) of about 1.4 years.

Board members were happy to accept the recommendation and approve the system, which some board members referred to as “a no-brainer” in terms of energy savings and electricity generation for the district.

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