Solar panels could be finishing touch for Port High

School Board endorses idea of joining Solar Now program by leasing rooftop space to We Energies
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington High School construction project has been completed except, perhaps, for one finishing touch — solar panels.

The Port Washington-Saukville School Board last week endorsed the idea of participating in the We Energies Solar Now pilot program by leasing rooftop space on the new, southern end of the high school to the utility, which would install hundreds of  solar panels there.

In exchange, the utility would pay the district $8,000 to $9,000 annually for the space for a total of $160,000 to $180,000 over the 20-year lease, Director of Business Services Jim Froemming said.

“This is not exactly a windfall, but we’re always looking for new revenue streams,” he said. 

School Board member Sara McCutcheon said, “I love it. I think it’s definitely worth looking into.”

Unlike traditional solar power programs in which participants pay the significant cost of installing and maintaining panels on their buildings and receive energy credits in return, Solar Now, also known as the Rent-a-Roof program, covers the cost of the equipment, installation and maintenance of solar systems. The owners of the building or land on which the solar panels are mounted receive rental payments but no credits for the energy, which goes on the grid.

“It’s really a turnkey program,” We Energies spokesman Brendan Conway said. 

Kirk Kindred, president of the Pewaukee-based SunVest Solar, which has partnered with We Energies to install the solar equipment, said the Port-Saukville School District could be one of the first entities of its kind in the state to participate in the program. 

The company is currently installing a large solar system in the New Berlin School District as part of the first Solar Now project. More than 8,000 solar panels are being installed on top of three schools as well as in a solar field being created on vacant land in the district. 

The project will produce more than 2 megawatts of power, and the utility will pay the district an estimated $94,500 a year, or $1.5 million over 20 years, to lease the space for the panels.

Details about the proposed Port High project are still rough, but a much smaller system is envisioned there, one that would use about 750 solar panels to produce 250 kilowatts of electricity.

The Village of Saukville also plans to participate in the program by leasing land it owns in the Dekora Woods Business Park to We Energies for a 2,000 solar panel project. According to a preliminary agreement, the utility would pay the village $21,356 per year for 30 years to lease the land.

In the Port-Saukville School District, the board’s endorsement of a Solar Now lease agreement with We Energies clears the way for a more detailed proposal, one that would answer the questions of officials.

“It’s a wonderful program, but at the same time we’re talking about someone putting their equipment on our buildings,” Froemming said. 

Board member Aaron Paulin called the proposal “a great idea,” but added, “I want to make sure we don’t have an eyesore on top of our nice new facility.”

Kindred said the solar panels on the high school would be angled only five to 10 degrees.

“In most cases you never see them,” he said. 

The New Berlin School District project will have taken six to nine months from planning through installation when completed, Conway said.

Installation alone for a project the size of the one envisioned for Port High would take only about a month, Kindred said.

“Once we’re on site, it goes pretty fast,” he said.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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