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Friday, December 19, 2008

Racine school adds solar electricity to sell to utility

From a story John Dobberstein in the Racine Journal Times:

RACINE — Bringing a modern amenity to an aging building, contractors Thursday continued installing solar panels on the roof of Walden III School.

The sun peeked out from the clouds during the frosty morning as electricians wired up two banks of solar panels that, when operational, will boost Walden’s certification with the state as a “Green and Healthy School.”

Between three major grants and several student fundraisers, the community at Walden III, 1012 Center St., raised more than $140,000 in about a year’s time to have 70 205-watt panels purchased and installed on the roof.

Walden will sell the electricity generated by the 14.4-kilowatt system back to We Energies at twice the rate the utility sells it for. The profits, estimated at $4,000a year, will be used for more energy-saving projects at the school.

Walden has been threatened with closure because of its age, said high school English teacher Tom Rutkowski. One area of the campus dates back to the 1860s.

“There is some educational value for students and it’s good for the school to see something new happening here,” said Rutkowski, who helped spearhead the solar project.

We Energies contributed $52,000 for the project and also paid for a weather station to be installed on the roof.

Wisconsin-based Focus on Energy, which promotes energy-efficient and renewable-energy projects, kicked in a $35,000 grant.

And the Kenosha-based Brookwood Foundation, which focuses on education, renewable energy and religious projects, also contributed grant money, although the foundation would not reveal the actual amount Thursday.

Educators Credit Union and the Racine Community Foundation are also sponsors of the project.

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