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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

Student advised solar and roof project approved by the Mitchell Community School Board Monday

MITCHELL - JULY 24, 2023 - After two years of presenting their proposal to the Mitchell Community School board the Mitchell High School students proposed solar project has now moved forward to being constructed.

Photo: Back in 2021 Mitchell High School students presented Mitchell Community School board with the studies they conducted of how solar energy will save the school corporation money

The resolutions for the project passed 5-0 Monday evening. Some of the students that was a part of the project attended the meeting.

Photos: Algebra students presented their findings about a solar energy project at MCS in 2021

The proposed project will cost about $9 Million but will have a tremendous savings to the school corporation according to estimates at this time.

The students only used numbers and research at the high school and did not include the elementary schools in their estimates.

In May 2021, students from the physics, calculus, and environmental science classes used their skills, research, on the project to present to the MCS school board at the time.

The students presented the following facts at the time:

  • The upfront payment of the solar panels will be $689,469.

  • The solar panels will be on the Junior High and High school roofs, with the exclusion of the auxiliary gym.

  • The solar panels will cover 44.4 percent of the school's electricity.

  • The construction two would take approximately 3.5 months in total deployment to commission and could be done with little or no disruption to the building occupants.

  • The lifespan of the solar panels is greater than 30 years and the lifespan of the inverters at 15 years.

Physics Students presentation:

How do the solar panels work?

Each solar panel is made of many photovoltaic cells. Each cell conductive metal plates at the ends and two layers of protective glass.

The bottom layer of the silicon has a positive charge, and the top layer of the silicon has a negative charge.

When photons the particles that carry light hit the silicon, electrons, the particles that carry electricity are ejected.

Because of the opposite charges of the layers of silicon, these electrons move down the two layers and then to the conductive metal plates, where they join a current that flows through the wires into the inverters.

This will be a DC current to AC current by switching the connection back and forth very quickly, sixty times per second.

The inverters are also transformers, which will increase the voltage to 480 volts, the voltage the school uses.

There will be a total of eight inverters and each inverter will have a large group of panels connected to a string.

Placement of the panels:

After meeting with an architect and solar panel specialist, the students determined the best place on the roof to place the solar panels would be the gymnasium and the Junior High.

This was determined by the amount of shade covering each part of the roof and which areas were flatter. The students looked at the high school roof to place the solar panels, but the highest section of the roof construction will be covered by shade.

The wiring for the solar panels will need direct access to the school's main electricity source, make the junior high and gym the best place because of the location of the boiler room. The solar panels will be 10 feet from the boiler roof's edge so they can reach maximum efficiency without being a safety risk for maintenance and installation.


In order to make the solar panels efficient as possible, they will face south and be placed at an angle. This is because the south side receives the most sunlight, so the solar panels will convert more electricity.

With the placement and number of panels, they will produce approximately 44. 4 percent of the school's electricity. The percentage not covered by the solar panels will be provided by the current energy source.

The maximum efficiency percentage of each individual solar panel is approximately 20 percent.


The solar panel specialist confirmed that most of the construction to install solar panels could be done in the summer.

The total time from deployment to commissioning would take 3.5 months, if construction is done through the summer months, there be little or no disruption to those in the building.

This will allow the installers to avoid periods of late October to late April for safer roof work.

Rather than creating holes in the roof by screwing the panels down, a non-slip sheet will be placed under the solar panels, adding an extra layer of protection for the roof and the solar panels.

Lifespan and maintenance:

By not adding any holes to the roof, maintenance will be little to none. During the winter months, snowfall will have to be watched in case there is too much build-up, but even then little maintenance will be required.

The solar panel specialist has chosen the Duomax Twin Models for the panels. This model is resistant to sand, dust, and alkaline, making them certified to withstand challenging environmental conditions.

The solar panels are guaranteed to be at least 90 percent efficient for 30 years. After 30 years, they will still work but not be completely efficient. This means after installing the solar panels they will not all have to be replaced after 30 years.

Total costs of the project:

Based on the proposed plan, the school corporation will install 1,134 solar panels and 8 inverters on the new roof. With this amount of solar panels, the estimated cost is approximately $689,468.

Electric Bill's Difference:

Between January 1st and December 1st of 2020, a series of electricity bills were charged to Mitchell Community Schools, totaling $118,179.

A predicted annual bill after solar panels is installed would only total up to $67,778, yielding an annual savings of $50,401.

By switching to solar panels, they will pay off in 11.9 years.

Payback Time:

The solar panels will produce 44.4 percent of the energy consumption in the building. After taking into the account the cash investment and the avoided utility costs, the payback period is calculated to 11.9 years. This means in approximately 12 years, the money spent on the solar panels will be paid off in total savings.

Environmental Science: (KWH to be saved per year)

Mitchell Community School Corporation energy is currently provided by coal, so by converting to solar panels, greenhouse gas emissions at the school will be greatly reduced. By reducing the coal intake, they school corporation can begin taking extra steps towards a healthier environment.

The Mitchell High School current bill is at 1,259,000 kWh. With using solar energy, it will change to 712,889 kWh, and saving the high school 546,111 kWh.

The Mitchell Community School board held a Preliminary Determination hearing Monday night with Raymond James presenting the school board with information on various funding options, and tax rates that could be impacted by the roof and solar project.

The MCS board thought it will be good to both the roof and solar project at the same time. Both projects will cost about $ 9 Million and a debt tax rate of 1.116.

" The topic of solar, have never left the board members minds after the students presented the project two years ago," said Dr. Brent Comer.

" Not only are there environmental advantages for looking at this type of project, but there are some financial advantages to the school corporation for this type of project," added Dr. Comer.

This means significant savings to the corporation with cash being brought back to the corporation especially with a rebate.

The large expense to the corporation is the cost of the roof replacement, that within five to seven years looking at replacing all the roofs throughout the school district.

The board decided to do both roof and solar project at the same time.

Craig Martin of Venergy says " We believe this project is a real winner for the Mitchell Community School District and the community,"

Photo: Mitchell Capital Improvement Projects are moving right along

There will be a 30-year warranty for the roofing project. The only roofs not part of the project is the roof over the new auxiliary gym and the canopies.

The cost of the project is estimated at $8,900,000 with a interest rate of 4 percent for 20 percent and less than 4 percent for a 10-year bond issue. The payoff for the bonds is expected in 2023.

The project is projected to save about $200,000 a year corporation wide that will stay in the Operations budget of the MCS.

The solar project will cost about $4.8 Million, and $3.8 million for the roofing project in construction costs which includes both the Junior and High School, as well as the elementary schools.

The timetable for financing the project will include the selling of the bonds in October, and the school corporation receiving the money in November.

The certified net assessed value in 2023 for is $464,665, 470.

Lawrence County Zephyr asked about the new Lehigh TIF district will affect the school district. The school district will not benefit from any growth from the Lehigh project in assessed value, and this project tax rate was based of no new assessed value. However, the school corporation is expected to see increased in assessed value from other areas within the school district.

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