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Flat roof to save Hayfield schools money

HAYFIELD — WhenHayfield High Schoolopens on Sept. 2, the district will have lower energy bills and science students will have a shiny new learning tool. In ...

Hayfield solar project
Bill Holzer of Novel Energy Solutions sits atop one of the rows of solar panels his company installed atop Hayfield High School's gym.
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HAYFIELD — When Hayfield High School opens on Sept. 2, the district will have lower energy bills and science students will have a shiny new learning tool.

In mid-August, Novel Energy Solutions of Rochester installed 40 kilowatts of solar energy panels atop the gym roof. All the energy will go directly to the school when they are connected this week, said Bill Holzer, Novel's chief operating officer. The 97 collectors will generate 54,000 to 56,000 kilowatt hours annually for the school. The panels will supply about 5 percent of the electric needs for the school, which houses grades K-12.

And best of all for the school district, the system was installed for free, including maintenance, Holzer said.

It was paid for by investors who took advantage of the Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program . The programrewards investors who buy products made in Minnesota and offers state energy credits for renewable energy, he said. In this case, the panels were made in the Twin Cities.

Cliff Kaehler, Novel's chief executive officer, said the school will save about $3,000 a year for 20 years. In that time, Hayfield will buy the power for 25 percent less than its provider, Xcel Energy, sells it, he said.

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After 20 years, the school will have the chance to buy the system for $1 and then it will get all the power. If the school district buys the system and the system lasts 30 years, Hayfield will save about $200,000 in all, he said.

Holzer said the company approached the school board with the idea last fall. "They are a very forward-looking school board," he said.

Also, the school's gym has a flat roof.

"There's a lot of real estate on a flat roof that is not being used," Holzer said. "It's cheaper to use that property, it's the roof that no one uses."

When the panels were installed, Novel removed about 10 pounds of rock per square foot and added the panels, which are about 7 pounds per square foot, he said.

Superintendent Belinda Selfours said the system takes up much of the gym roof and "it really looks cool." Panels are anchored to withstand up to a 90 mph wind and also heavy hail.

The system will help the district financially, but it also helps education, because students will be able to monitor the system, she said. Math students can analyze the data, science students can learn more about solar, she said.

In the future, it's possible the system could be expanded because much of the school has a flat roof.

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