MINOCQUA - Up a ladder, and another, and yet another, sits Dave Arnold's new favorite project.
"I didn't know what to think because we've never done anything that big," the Lakeland Union High School Buildings and Grounds Supervisor said.
Big could be an understatement. One thousand fifty-six solar panels sit on the Lakeland Union High School's field house roof. Even in the frigid cold, Arnold enjoys the climb.
"I'm learning every day with what's going on," Arnold said.
Working through Schneider Electric, crews from the Madison-based solar power provider SunPeak installed the panels over about two weeks this fall. On a perfect sunny day, the panels can pump out about 280 kWh of juice.
"We're saying maybe it could power 30 households," Arnold said.
When it's broken down, the process is fairly simple. The energy comes off the panels on the roof, down through metal conduit lines, into inverter boxes that turn the energy into AC power. That current goes into the school's power supply and can ultimately offset about 20 percent of the school's use.
Those are numbers district administrator Jim Bouche likes to hear.
"We're revamping the whole process," Bouche said of his school's energy usage.
Bouche says the Lakeland Union District used about $630,000 from funds opened up through Wisconsin Act 32. That allows schools to spend more money on energy-efficient upgrades. Using about $14 million, the school re-did its roof and plans to overhaul its heating and cooling systems too.
"We're very much aware of the benefits of solar power, solar energy," Bouche said. "Taking a look at being able to teach our students about all forms of energy. This gave us that opportunity."
These panels add to the ten panels WPS installed as part of its SolarWise program in 2012. The school's swimming pool is also heated through solar power. Bouche expects the new panels to save about $1.2 million dollars over their 30-year lifespan. Schneider Electric guarantees at least $15,394 in energy savings in the first year of panel use.
But beyond cost savings, he expects teachers to incorporate the panels into science, technology and engineering classes.
"When students are excited about that, that gets me excited about the fact that this is the step in the right direction," Bouche said.
It's a step Dave Arnold is proud to help his school take.
"I'm really tickled with it, I think it's a great project," Arnold said. "I think there should be more of it throughout the whole country."
LUHS plans to take those panels active by Friday, December 16.
There could be room to add more panels on the school in the future, although Bouche says he's happy having the largest solar array on a school in the state.
More info on SunPeak is available via the link below.
For more info on SunPeak click HERE