School district's $1.5M solar project delayed by dispute

By The Associated Press | Posted - Sep. 8, 2015 at 1:41 p.m.


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ROCKFORD, Iowa (AP) — A dispute between a northern Iowa school district and a utility provider is blocking the installation of a $1.5 million solar array that would cut the district's utility costs by more than 60 percent.

School officials with the Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock School District hoped to sell excess energy from the solar project, which would produce 750 to 900 kilowatts, to the city of Rockford or be credited for any excess energy the district produces, the Mason City Globe Gazette (http://bit.ly/1LVpDtb ) reported.

The city operates a municipal power plant, and groups representing it in the matter contend that the district's plan would increase utility costs for residents.

Executive director Bob Poehling of the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska noted the size of the proposed project is roughly half of the city's peak load of 1,600 kilowatts and is significantly larger than the school's electrical load. He thinks the district may have received some bad advice from a consultant regarding the financial benefit of its planned solar array.

The district pursued the solar project after seeing a hit to its general fund in recent years due to low state funding rates and declining enrollment. It sought to save on utilities after seeing its electrical bills increase last year.

"If we can reduce our electrical consumption, we have more money to directly affect kids," Superintendent Keith Turner said.

Turner said the solar project also would have the added benefit of offering an educational component for students in allowing them to study the district's solar production.

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Information from: Globe Gazette, http://www.globegazette.com/

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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