Ogden School District solar panels yield results; new buildings to get them
OGDEN — Ogden School District is increasingly turning to renewable energy to power its facilities and save money.
The Ben Lomond High School Athletic Center, which opened in December 2020, is fitted with solar panels and data from the first year of operations shows the shift is paying off, district officials say. Data the district recently crunched shows power generated by the panels, located atop the new facility, offset nearly 97% of its power needs in its first year of operation, through November 2021, surpassing the goal of 92%.
“The system saved the district $10,000 in energy costs last summer alone indicating that the investment in solar energy will more than pay for itself in the future,” the district said in a statement.
Placement of the panels represents the extension of a standing Ogden School District energy-efficiency initiative that dates to 2007. The Mound Fort Junior High School Innovation Center, completed in 2019, was the first district facility fitted with solar panels and they were also placed on East Ridge Elementary, which opened last August. They’re to be placed on Polk and Liberty elementary schools, under construction but to open later this year for the 2022-2023 school year.
“Money is not the only benefit. We are also making an investment in our environment by creating green new energy and reducing our carbon footprint,” Darwin Smith, the energy specialist for the district, said in a statement.
District officials approved a policy in 2007 meant to augment energy-efficiency efforts in district schools and facilities. An energy manager came on board and new guidelines were enacted to promote energy savings in existing facilities. Moreover, district leaders made a commitment to incorporate energy-efficiency measures in new buildings.
In all, school officials estimate savings from the varied energy-conservation efforts have saved $15.3 million between June 2007 and December 2021.
“Whenever our school district is undergoing significant construction projects, we have kept sustainable energy at the forefront of our decision-making process,” said Luke Rasmussen, the district superintendent. Smith, he said, “has done an amazing job of cutting energy costs and creating some exciting projects that save energy and create long-term money savings that will ultimately result in a more efficient budget, a healthier environment and something our community can be proud of.”
The solar panels at the varied Ogden schools are meant to offset power needs at the facilities, but not to generate excess power that would be sold back to the grid.
“Cost is a major factor in that decision. It is our design intent to offset as much of our electricity cost without overproducing and selling back to the grid,” said Jer Bates, the district spokesperson. At the elementary schools, the panels are meant to offset 70%-80% of power needs.
The initiatives that have helped with energy savings include improved tracking of energy use to pinpoint areas of waste and where use can be scaled back.