Six schools in Minnesota saving money, boosting education with solar

New Energy Equity, Region Five Development Commission (R5DC) and Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) last week announced a partnership to develop six solar arrays, totaling 1.5 MW, for Pine River-Backus and Pequot Lakes school districts and Central Lakes College.

These three projects in central Minnesota will reduce each school’s carbon footprint by 1,420 metric tons of C02, while providing discounted and predictable electricity costs over the next 25 years.

Construction of the largest site, Pine River-Backus, began in October 2018 and was completed in December 2018. This 800-kW solar array will offset more than 80 percent of the entire district’s electricity load. The second array located at Pequot Lakes is currently under construction. This 354-kW rooftop installation required significant roof upgrades and despite extraordinary weather conditions including sub-zero temperatures impacting RREAL’s construction crew, is slated for on-time completion in early spring.

The remaining four ground-mount systems totaling 333 kW will be built on multiple Central Lakes College campuses by May 2019.   

R5DC secured $2M in funding through a Renewable Development Fund grant made available by Xcel Energy.


Beyond reducing each school’s CO2 emissions, these solar arrays will become a learning tool for each educational institution. As part of the project, curriculum is developed and provided to the schools so students will understand the environmental and economic impacts of their school’s investment in solar.

Chris Lindholm, Superintendent for Pequot Lakes Schools said, “We plan to bring students out to the array, to watch its performance from web-based tracking services and other activities to bring this project to life for our students.”

Matthew Hankey, President of New Energy Equity said that this is one of the most rewarding aspects of doing projects for schools. “Close to half of our projects at New Energy Equity have been with schools throughout Minnesota and the rest of the country. There is great curriculum readily available now for students of all ages, from elementary school to college.” He added, “This is their project in many ways. They should definitely be encouraged to learn about it.


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