On Thursday, Millcreek-West Unity Local Schools staged a “throwing of the switch” event for the first solar array generating electricity and producing power for a Williams County school.
“Even though the school colors are officially red and white, Hilltop Schools have now become quite green,” Superintendent Jim Wyse said Thursday. “With the addition of solar power, the Millcreek-West Unity Local School District now has both geothermal and solar energy to help reduce its costs and carbon emissions.”
District officials broke ground in early December 2019 for the new solar panel field on a six-acre parcel west of the school and the schools’ ball fields.
The field, with 2,160 solar panels, produces more than 1 million kilowatts of power annually, which is about 77.5% of the district’s power needs, according to Wyse and Jeffrey Feasby, engineering and operations manager for En-Trust, LLC, the district’s energy consultant and a Hamilton, Indiana-based solar technology firm.
The solar array was installed by Inovateus Solar LLC, a South Bend, Indiana-based solar development and supply company.
The solar panels initially are leased by the district and a buyout option is available under terms of the lease. Energy produced by the field remains at a fixed cost of 9 cents for 25 years, said Feasby, adding the field has a “life” of about 40 years.
According to Feasby, Millcreek-West Unity Schools will save $318,894 in the first 10 years of operation, and $4,788,536 over 30 years, during which time the district would take ownership.
In June, 2019, the school board purchased approximately seven acres of land owned by Jim Rupp at a cost of $6,000 per acre for the solar field. Otherwise, the project required no other upfront expense for Millcreek-West Unity Schools while providing reduced costs and energy predictability for the foreseeable future, Wyse said.
Tinora, Wauseon, Holgate and Liberty Center are some of the other local school districts that have developed solar fields, but the Millcreek-West Unity solar field is the first one operating in Williams County.