Prairie Park Elementary celebrates powering up solar panels

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Post updated at 7:50 p.m. Friday, May 17:

The Prairie Park Elementary School community on Friday celebrated the installation of solar panels — the Lawrence school district’s first renewable energy pilot project.

Prairie Park Principal Jason Townsend, Chief Operations Officer Larry Englebrick, school board Past President Shannon Kimball, and Amanda Stamm, vice president of energy operations for Cromwell Solar, spoke briefly at a ceremony Friday “about the the bright sunshine today, and how the panels on the school’s roof were converting the sun’s energy into direct current (DC) electricity, so it could be converted to alternating current (AC) electricity to power the school,” district spokesperson Julie Boyle said via email.

The idea for solar power initially came from the Futures Planning Committee during the 2022-23 school year as a potential way for the district to cut costs. The solar panels were installed during spring break and activated this week.

“Staff determined that the south-facing sections of Prairie Park’s metal roof, which has a 50-year life expectancy, made the school a prime site for the project,” according to information from the school district.

The school board in September approved a $240,590 contract with Cromwell Solar for the project to be installed.

“We’re asking you to allow us to invest $240,000 into a capital project that over its lifetime, in today’s dollars, will return a profit of $480,000 to the district in our general fund,” Englebrick said at the time. “We are reducing our general fund obligation for energy by at least a positive $480,000 over the life of this system.”

Those who spoke Friday “shared that we look forward to this project assisting teachers in educating students across the district about solar energy, helping the environment, and producing savings in our district’s General Fund by reducing utility costs,” Boyle said.

Cromwell Solar provided this photo of Prairie Park Elementary’s roof with solar panels installed.
Julie Boyle/Contributed photo Prairie Park students and staff members raise their hands during the ribbon cutting ceremony Friday. (Julie Boyle, USD 497/Contributed photo)
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