Missouri School Goes Solar for Long-Term Savings

By Lisa Kopochinski

 HOLLISTER, Mo.—A recent decision by the Hollister School District to move toward a more-renewable energy source by adding a solar panel system to its elementary school building will help save money.

“For the last five or six years, we’ve been trying to do things that are more green,” explains Hollister School Assistant Superintendent Sean Woods.

The district has partnered with All Tech Energy, a local company, to pursue a grant through Liberty Utilities and its subsidiary, Empire District Electric Company.

“Anytime we can take the business side of school and cut costs in the long run, we can keep those dollars in the classroom. So, when we looked at solar, it’s been so expensive for so long, it wasn’t feasible for us to do it. Then, Liberty Utilities, through Empire District, offered a $50,000 grant on a 100 (kilowatt) system.”

This system, Woods says, feeds directly into the school’s meter and could save up to $2,000 a month in their electric bill in just that one building.

Looking forward, it is the hope that this system will pay for itself in approximately six years.

“That’s revenue generated because they’re 20 to 25-year panels,” he adds. “We should be able to draw revenue off of them for 20 years. Over a 20-year period [that] is a lot of money and we’re looking at that impact on learning five and 10 years down the road.”

The addition of solar energy and other green efforts may also help the district from needing to raise taxes to pay for larger projects.

“As we do a good job of saving money, we don’t have to go to taxpayers and say we have this big project, but we have to raise taxes to do it,” continues Wood. “We want to save money and be responsible and use that money to fund projects.”

The Department of Natural Resources is conducting a feasibility study with Hollister and one other school district in southwest Missouri to determine when further solar systems could be added to the district.

Woods says then the decision will need to be made on where the next solar-powered building will be.

“Should it be at the high school? What would give us the quickest return on our investment.”

In addition to revenue saving, another benefit of this move to solar energy is the educational opportunities it has provided for some students in the district who were able to take down the panels and explore the different steps required of installing and plugging them in.