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Saint Paul Public Schools, District 625
360 Colborne Street
Saint Paul
MN
55102

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Solar Energy

Solar Energy at Saint Paul Public Schools

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Solar energy is an effective means of further reducing the carbon footprint of an already efficient building.  However, solar energy should not be used to counteract energy waste, especially when energy efficiency and/or conservation opportunities are available.  The SPPS Facilities Energy Team places a higher priority on projects that are low cost, have short payback periods, and have additional non-energy benefits, such as reduced maintenance, improved comfort, and health and/or safety improvements.  The Energy Team is dedicated to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels through proven, cost-effective best practices.

TYPES OF SOLAR

There are two types of solar energy technologies: photovoltaic and solar thermal.  Photovoltaic (PV) panels use semiconductors to transform solar energy into electricity that can be used within a building or sent back to the electrical grid.  Solar thermal panels have a working fluid that absorbs solar energy in the form of heat that is then used to produce hot water for use in the building.  SPPS currently owns one of each type of solar array. 

Solar Thermal Array at Creative Arts Secondary School
Solar thermal array at Creative Arts

    

40 kBtu/hr Solar Thermal Array
Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Array at Battle Creek Elementary
battle solar

 

10 kW Photovoltaic Solar Array. 

SPPS Solar Resources

District Solar Energy Guidance 2019 (Criteria, Goals, and Considerations for a Potential Solar Energy Installation)

SPPS Solar Feasibility Roof Study

Solar Feasibility Criteria:

Less than 5 years old roof or getting a new roof in 5 years.

More than 2,000 sq.ft Area

Minimal interference from RTU, vents equipment, skylights

Orientation to sun, amount of shade, trees, etc

Structural Integrity

Community Solar Subscription RFP (Request for Proposal)

 "It is far less expensive to save a kilowatt of energy than it is to produce a kilowatt of energy."

ENERGY EFFICIENCY PYRAMID

 

We must first focus in energy conservation, then energy efficiency, then investment in renewable energy.

 

image credit: VITAL Group of Companies

POTENTIAL FOR GROWTH

Community Solar Subscription

A cost effective way to add more solar energy to our portfolio is to subscribe to a community solar garden.   A solar garden is a community shared PV solar array or "garden" that provides electricity to grid-connected subscribers.  SPPS would enter a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with a solar developer to launch construction of a solar garden.  In 2018 SPPS issued an RFP to solar developers that lays out the terms of the agreement to ensure SPPS is protected should the panels underperform and that SPPS benefits from reduced electricity rates while also ensuring that the energy saving measures already in place for SPPS remain available to the District.  SPPS received no responses to the release of the RFP in 2018. In Minnesota, there is a clause that the solar garden must be located in an adjoining county. SPPS is located in  Ramsey County, a very urban county. Most new or current solar garden projects are being built in southern Minnesota counties

Solar Roof Feasibility Study

Additional solar arrays can be installed on the roofs of SPPS buildings, but there are many considerations that need to be taken into account, including financial benefits, maintenance/ownership implications, legal considerations, and environmental impact.   A solar array feasibility study was undertaken in 2019 to determine which SPPS buildings would be good candidates for installation of a rooftop solar array.  Read more about the study..