Colorado school uses 500-kW solar array for science class curriculum

National construction and energy services firm McKinstry and Fremont RE-2 School District of Florence, Colorado, began a two-year student and staff educational program as part of their partnership on a project that includes an approximately 500-kW ground-mounted solar array to serve the high school.

McKinstry

With construction scheduled to be complete by May 2021, McKinstry and Fremont RE-2 School District are kicking off the student and staff engagement portion of the project. McKinstry’s powerED program challenges building occupants to become active contributors to reduce energy use and increase sustainability in their schools.

“Florence Jr./Sr. High School has a wonderful opportunity to partner with McKinstry and the powerED program to provide some real-world experience to our students, seventh grade through 12th grade,” said Dan Melendrez, principal of Florence Jr./Sr. High School. “This experiential learning will give teachers and students the ability to be educated about the importance of energy efficiency and the environmental impacts that affect us daily. This visit for AP students is just the start to some great learning opportunities for the future.”

Highlights of the Fremont RE-2 School District powerED program include:

  • Providing real-time data of new solar array for classroom use as well as site visits to the array to teach about construction and design principles.
  • Conducting virtual and in-person building tours of energy systems to provide real-world examples for classroom learning modules.
  • Activities and materials to reward and encourage program participation.
  • Working with students to conduct building audits and inform energy best practices.
  • Connecting current classes to potential careers and fields of study.

At each building, powerED will be led by site champions through extra-curricular activities that complement current initiatives. The overall goals of this program are to increase energy efficiency, improve comfort and increase sustainability engagement and awareness.

In the background, the program will collaborate with Fremont RE-2 School District facilities teams to ensure operational optimization of mechanical systems in schools.

“I’m very excited for my AP Environmental Science students to tour and see the new solar array at Florence Jr./Sr. High School as part of the powerED program,” said Kristin Shapiro, science teacher at Florence. “This tour allowed students to see new solar technology up close, not just in their textbooks. [AlsoEnergy’s] dashboard allows my students to conduct real-time data analysis, making the things they read and learn about ‘come alive.’ They can talk with industry experts and see firsthand the employment opportunities that are available to them. Students were pleased to see how the topics we discuss in class are being carried out in the real world, right next to our classroom.”

The project leverages a grant of nearly $600,000 from the Colorado Department of Education’s BEST program and approximately $580,000 in incentives from Black Hills Energy to save the District nearly $140,000 per year in utilities to offset the overall total project costs.

Since Colorado established its EPC program in the mid-1990s, 152 public jurisdictions — including 58 school districts — have worked with energy services companies, like McKinstry, to save more than $34 million in annual utility costs, 193 million kWh of electricity. McKinstry has experience serving K-12 school districts across the country and to date has completed nearly 600 K-12 energy projects for more than 450 school districts nationwide.

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