50 kW of PV for Dixon school?

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-111038444823493.jpg’, ‘Image courtesy of www.photon-magazine.com’, ‘A 49-kW photo voltaicsystem installation by Spire Solar Chicago at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Spire will also install Dixon’s Reagan Middle School system.’);

Dixon might soon have the largest educational photovoltaic system in Illinois. Fifty kilowatts should be installed at the Reagan Middle School this spring. The school system signed a contract this February; workers could be on site March 21 and finish two weeks later if things go as expected.

Several years ago, we recommended that Glen Kizer contact now-retired principal Woody Wasson to seek grants from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation (ICECF) and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). After filling in all of the required forms and filing reports, sufficient funds are expected to cover the valued system.

Initially, the panels were to be installed as a carport roof, but the expense of structural steel involved moved the project to a more modest level. Panels will be mounted on a ground rack rather than on the school roof, which would require punching holes in it. A chain link fence will provide protection from possible vandalism.

An architect has been involved since the project’s inception. David Blackburn, district business manager, feels it will be nice when the system is up and running and they see the fruits of what they’ve worked for through the long, yet interesting, process.

Spire Solar Chicago, responsible for more than a megawatt of power on Chicago schools, museums and public buildings, will install the Dixon system.

The district is planning for the future. An educational program will accompany the PV installation. What it will include and who will run it will be decided next year. The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the as yet unbuilt system will be a celebration. Michael Reagan and U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert will be invited as guests.

This is a big moment for Dixon. According to Blackburn, “We’re really excited about the opportunity in terms of generating electricity and what the students can learn in terms of renewable energy.”

This is also a big moment for the Illinois Renewable Energy Association.

One assessment of the Energy Fair’s success is the number of watts installed as a result of it. This is difficult to trace since few people report the actions they’ve taken and the success they’ve had.

We know that with Dixon, at least 56 kilowatts of school PV installation are directly attributed to the IREA’s influence. Some home installations are also partially a result of the Fair, the Solar Tour, and personal contacts, but the number of watts and percentage of influence remain unknown.

Two organizations have asked us for help in planning their own regional energy fairs. The idea is spreading despite the fact that our efforts initiating the first fair were greeted with skepticism.

A few voices encouraged us. As we began, a prominent solar advocate commented, “That’s really a bold move on your part.” As we moved through moments of doubt, Frank Schier’s can-do spirit kept us energized and focused on the goal.

Dixon’s action is also encouraging—and timely, considering the global energy situation.

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