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Chinese Students Finish Stay at PinesSubmitted: 02/20/2013

Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com


ST. GERMAIN - Ten Chinese students discovered everything from American manners to pizza in the Northland Pines School District.

They were here for three weeks.

Now the group is about to head back home after their immersion in the Northwoods.

The group visited grade schoolers at St. Germain Elementary Wednesday to teach the students about their home.

The Chinese students have experienced a little of of everything during their time here.

But the most fun often came after school hours.

"Many things, but the thing I love most is outside activities, like snow tubing and cross country skiing. That is super fun for me," says Eric Miao, one of the exchange students.

The group heads back home Friday.

Later this spring, two Northland Pines High Schoolers will travel to China for a week and a half as part of the same program.

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MOLE LAKE - When you drive through Mole Lake, you'll notice a lot of solar panels.

It's part of a project tribal leaders have worked on for more than a year, and they hope it will save the community a lot in energy costs.

Tribal leaders applied and received a couple million dollars in grants from the U.S. Energy Department and the Housing and Urban Development Department. Then they started working with a Pewaukee-based company called SunVest Solar, Inc., and started installing the panels on homes and businesses in 
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Now, they are almost done.

According to SunVest Solar, this is the largest per capital solar array installation in the Midwest. Tribal Administrator Jeff Ackley, Jr., says 50 homes and 17 businesses have solar panels.

"Most of the state of Wisconsin has less than one percent of its generation coming from solar and now you have a community where almost 50 percent of the homes get their power from the sun," said Adam Gusse, head of operations at SunVest Solar, Inc.

"I thought it would put us on the map," Ackley said.

Project leaders think the panels can produce up to 85 percent of power in homes and between 20 and 60 percent for businesses.

"It will be significant savings all around for the community," Ackley said. "From rough crunchings of numbers we're looking at probably saving between $60,000 and $80,000 per year on energy usage."

The first batch of panels turned on in November, and some people say they've already seen the savings.

"Some are seeing up to $100 in savings just after that first month," Gusse said. "So they'll see much more per month savings as they go on."

Gusse said the panels don't produce as much power in the winter as they will in the summer, but residents still save money.

Tribal leaders can apply for more grants to put panels on more homes. 

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