April 15, 2024
Ozark School District says new solar panels will save district money

OZARK, Mo. (KY3) – Two elementary schools in Ozark are getting solar panels installed, something the district expects to save them money in the long-run.

Dr. Curtis Chesick, assistant superintendent of operations, says this is all part of a major renovation, cost-saving project that includes the solar panels, installing LED lights at the schools, and updating the HVAC system at the high school, all in an effort to reduce energy costs. The panels are going in at South and West elementary schools.

“We also chose to examine how we could save money with solar. So we chose South Elementary, which we think we can get close to energy neutral by putting solar panels on the roof. Then ironically, our newest elementary was our highest electrical bill. So we found ways that we could save some money there. And we’re putting in a solar field out back to drive those costs down as well,” said Dr. Chesick.

The district was quoted $2.8 million for the solar panel project, though Dr. Chesick says with rebates, they expect the cost to be closer to $1.8 million. That, of course, could change.

“Right now, there’s a lot of rebates through the federal level, as well as our local power company. We’re gonna get a check presentation from them, I believe next week for some of the rebates that they’re offering as well,” said Dr. Chesick.

The school isn’t sure just how much money it’ll save yet; they’re going through an audit. However, they expect the savings to be enough to pay off the new HVAC system at the high school.

“We’re actually going through the audit right now,” said Dr. Chesick. “There’s enough cost savings that between the next 15 and 20 years, it will actually pay for the replacement of the HVAC system at the high school.”

The district did a lease purchase to buy the panels, which will be paid annually with cost-savings from the new high school HVAC system and the energy savings it expects to see from both the LED lights and solar panels.

“The annual savings that we receive from lowering our energy bills and lowering our maintenance bills pays for the cost of the lease purchase,” said Dr. Chesick.

It is important to note that this will not raise taxes in the Ozark School District. The district will cover the purchase with their current operating costs.

“So this whole project is done within the general operating budget of the Ozarks School District. There’s not an increase to property taxes, there’s not an increase to our operating levy. This is just a way that we can reduce our daily operations with electricity and then help offset for some future expenses,” said Dr. Chesick.

Dr. Chesick says he hopes that with the money the district saves, that there will be more money to contribute to the schools.

“The cost of everything is going up: the operation of the buildings, the electricity, the gas, the water, sewer, all of that goes up. Our funding, we like to spend as many dollars as we can on students. So anytime we can take money out of paying for power, and put it in paying for teachers or paying for the supplies that go into the classroom, that’s great. That’s a great win,” said Dr. Chesick.

The solar panels at West are currently under construction and are expected to be done in June. Construction on South’s solar panels will start after some roof upgrades that are being completed this summer.

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