Unable to use full roof space, Byron Public Schools will use some grounds for solar panels

Unlike the other three schools, the district will not be using the middle school for any of its solar panels.

Byron Primary School is pictured on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022, in Byron.
Jordan Shearer / Post Bulletin
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BYRON — In addition to installing more solar panels on the roofs of three of its buildings, Byron Public Schools will be adding some panels on its grounds.

The school district expects to begin installing the panels in the spring. School officials had discussed where to place the panels for some time since not all of them will be able to be installed on the roofs. The district mulled the project for over a year.

“We want as much solar energy to be used as possible to help alleviate our costs in the future,” Superintendent Mike Neubeck said.

At the high school, the panels will be placed on the roof. At the primary school, the panels will be placed on the roof, as well as on the ground near the holding pond. At the intermediate school, the panels will be placed near the roundabout at the intersection of Seventh and Tenth Streets Northeast.

Neubeck said the district will add the ground-level panels due to restrictions about the load-bearing capacity of the roofs at the primary and intermediate schools.


“We even looked at the middle school,” Neubeck said. “Because of the type of roof it has, we couldn’t put any panels on it. And we didn’t really have any space over there because of the land and the way things are set up.”

The district already has some existing solar panels. With the new ones, the district will take part in a state project called Solar For Schools, which provided funding for some of the work. The state allocated $8 million for schools to invest in solar energy. Byron Public Schools is receiving $102,000 in grant funding from the program.

The school district is working with the firm iDeal Energies on the project. According to Neubeck, the firm predicts that the school district will be able to save $6.3 million from the additional panels over a 40-year period.

The district doesn’t have to pay for the panels up front. Rather, the district will pay for them with the savings it earns from the solar energy. It will start reaping the savings to the district's energy costs once the cost of the panels is paid off.

In addition to having to place some of the panels on the ground, the process became complicated for the district since it uses energy from both People’s Electric as well as Excel.

“Because we had two different (power) companies in our district, we had to deal with it two different ways,” Neubeck said.

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or
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