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Madison-Grant sees solar project savings

by Tim Tedeschi - ttedeschi@chronicle-tribune.com

Madison-Grant United School Corporation’s energy savings project has already led to approximately $150,000 worth of savings on the district’s energy bill and has reduced energy usage across the board, according to officials.

Distributed Energy Resources manager Arash Habibi-Soureh and partner Kurt Schneider, of Johnson-Melloh Solutions, updated the school board at its regular meeting Monday on the $2.8 million project that installed solar panels at the junior high/high school campus in 2017.

The project also included replacing light fixtures with LED lighting at the high school, Summitville Elementary and Park Elementary.

Usable solar energy was first captured by the panels in March 2018.

Habibi-Soureh walked the board through its energy usage with the solar panels and LEDs now installed and compared those numbers to a base year of December 2015 through November 2016, a period before the project began.

He detailed two areas that go into the district’s energy bill contract: total billed kilowatt hours and metered demand, which looks at the highest point of kilowatt usage in a given month. Schneider compared total billed hours to the total amount of miles driven in a car in a month, while metered demand looks at how fast the car went one time throughout the month.

During the base year, the high school used approximately 1.9 million kilowatt hours with a metered demand of 7,404 kilowatts, Habibi-Soureh said. With the solar panels and LEDs in place, the high school used approximately 398,400 kilowatt hours with a metered demand of 2,800 kilowatts.

Habibi-Soureh explained there were similar reductions at the middle school which has separate power structures despite being part of the same campus as the high school.

The elementary schools both saw total usage and metered demand decrease just from replacing light bulbs to LEDs.

“From a high level standpoint, you’ve reduced your consumption over 75 percent, your demand over 60 percent,” Schneider said. “That’s terrific.”

Schneider said a contract stipulation with Indiana Michigan Power Co. means that Madison-Grant will be paying more for metered demand than they are actually using for the next year, but he said they will find more savings when they pay for the actual demand next year.

The energy savings and solar power production has led to a combined $149,498 of savings on the district’s energy bill, Habibi-Soureh said, and the district has avoided an additional cost of approximately $150,000 to $250,000 by becoming more energy efficient.

“You guys are doing off the chart,” Schneider said. “This is the best demand reduction we have in any of the programs we’re doing because you combined it with the LED, and it’s just a nice blend.”

Schneider said the combined energy production and cost avoidance already is beginning to exceed the approximate $200,000 annual cost for the $2.8 million loan the district is paying back through 2038.

He also noted that the solar panels’ warranty lasts 25 years and that the panels could last anywhere from 40 to 60 years if properly maintained.

“If you have good wire management and maintenance, there’s going to be a time in 15, 20 years that (the corporation) will have paid this off and boards in the future – you’re going to give a gift like you’ve never seen a gift,” he said.

The school board’s next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. at the district’s Central Office.

Superintendent Scott Deetz said the board will be hearing presentations from various district stakeholders on the potential benefits of reconfiguring the elementary schools but will not vote on any proposed reconfiguration.