Saturday, January 20, 2018

With NorthWestern Energy covering 85 percent of the cost, Columbus Middle School now has a $34,735 solar panel array on the school’s south roof that will save the school district $1,733 per year in electrical costs.

Here comes the sun

If the south roof of the Columbus Middle School looks different this year, it’s because of a large array of recently installed solar panels that will save the school district money and provide an educational opportunity for children.
“The solar panels were first presented to the Columbus School Board of Trustees in March 2015 by former Superintendent Al Sipes,” Columbus School Superintendent Jeff Bermes said.
A grant was secured through Bozeman-based Harvest Solar, a company that works to secure grants for green energy through NorthWestern Energy, with little to no costs to school districts.
The total value of the project was $34,735, with NorthWestern Energy covering 85 percent of the cost and the school district’s share coming to $5,210.
“The system will off-set about $1,733 in annual electricity costs,” Bermes said. “The district’s return on investment for the installation would be just a month over three years.”
The power will not be sold back to the utility but used to reduce energy use in the school.
“As far as education opportunities, the district is in the process of constructing a curriculum plan in our current science programs to showcase our solar panels with real world activities and examples of the uses of green energy,” Bermes said.