Small-town school switches to solar

By Marisa Hicks

The Guy-Perkins School District is among the first in the state to go green.

The district held a public hearing Thursday night. One resident, Jimmy Fielder, attended the brief hearing.

Upon learning where the “solar garden” would be, the small-town resident said he felt the switch would be a great move for the district and the students it represents alike.

The school plans to move forward with a 28-year agreement with Scenic Hill Solar, which will save the school 95% of its current electric costs.

The panels will be fenced in and maintained by Scenic Hill staff. The Guy-Perkins School Board already has given administrators the OK to move forward with this green initiative.

A special-called city council meeting followed Thursday’s hearing. During the meeting, city alderman discussed the benefits and ultimately OK’d the request to rezone an 8-acre plot from recreational to industrial to allow the school to switch to solar power.

“We’re excited,” Superintendent Shad Gilbert told the Log Cabin following the meeting. “This is going to be great for the school district.”

By converting to a net-meter system, the school would source power via solar panel units and Petit Jean Electric Cooperative power. The net-meter service would sync with the current Petit Jean grid so that the school would not be without power should the panels be damaged.

The plot that will be utilized to set up solar panels is located on the eastern side of the school’s campus, near the Guy City Park.

The solar panels will be set at a fixed angle to get the best results, Gilbert said. Scenic Hill representatives will stop by six to eight times each year to maintain the panels.

Because the panels are “engineered to produce 95% of district power needs,” the school expects to save $500,000 throughout the course of the 28-year agreement. Gilbert said he expects to save $10,000-$20,000 in electricity costs in the first year.

There is no down payment or initial cost to the district to have the panels installed.

The Batesville School District also switched to solar energy last year.

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