PERRYSBURG – Drive along Interstate 75 and the new solar field at Penta Career Center can’t be missed.
Construction is done on the field and the arrays were to be energized this week, said Penta Superintendent Ed Ewers.
Work was set to be completed Aug. 1, but the drop in the number of people on campus due to the cancellation of classes because of coronavirus allowed GEM Energy to work more consistently, Ewers said.
The $2 million solar array will provide an estimated 58% of the electrical needs for the career center.
GEM Energy, of the Rudolph Libbe Group, was the design/build contractor and tradespeople from two other Rudolph Libbe Group companies, GEM Inc. and Rudolph Libbe Inc., constructed the array with 3,100 Series 6 panels manufactured by First Solar.
The fixed-tilt, ground-mount array is located on six acres at the southernmost point of Penta Career Center’s property, visible from I-75.
AEP OnSite Partners owns the array and will sell power to Penta through an agreement that will save the school utility operating costs over 30 years. The estimated savings is $1.7 million.
Officials have estimated the project will produce 1.76 million kilowatt hours of power, equal to the energy needed to power 142 average homes.
Ewers said the project also was completed early because 95% of the equipment is American made.
“While other projects might have experienced complications from COVID-19 … with so much of that project being domestic, it made it easier,” he said. “I really think having so much of it local and regional, it really did help us.”
Penta is the second school in Wood County to add solar power, behind Otsego Local Schools. In Fulton County, Wauseon has a solar field and Swanton’s Board of Education recently approved one.
“I imagine that every school has the opportunity for … green energy,” Ewers said. “When we have an opportunity to put a project together like this with local partners … it’s a real-life experience of what our students may see in the field.”
For Penta, it is a win-win proposition, said former Superintendent Ron Matter when the project was proposed last August. There are zero costs upfront, the study of solar power can be included in the curriculum, it will reduce expenses, and offer Penta a competitive advantage in attracting students, he said.
Ewers said the construction electricity program can use the array to get experience in green energy job opportunities.
The intent was to have students engaged in the project as it was being constructed, but with school canceled in March, that didn’t happen. A time-lapse camera was onsite and can be used in the labs this fall as will real-time data, Ewers said.
He added there may be a non-functioning array installed near the fire and criminal justice learning lab to provide training on calls to residential properties that use solar power.
“They have an experience to replicate what it will look like when they are on the job,” Ewers said.
The breakdown will mean a savings of about $57,000 per year in utility costs.
Ever little bit helps, Ewers said. In the volatility of school funding, they are going to take advantage of any opportunity that has a positive impact on the budget.