MICHIGAN CITY — Energy from the sun is providing as much as 95 percent of the electricity in some of the Michigan City area schools.
Officials estimate the $8.9 million investment should be fully returned in 10 years from savings on the electric bills.
With low maintenance anticipated, it’s pretty much all gravy during the 20 years or more the solar panels are expected to function after the debt is paid.
"This is going to pay off in the long run," said Betsy Kohn, spokesperson for the Michigan City Area School Corporation.
Solar panels were put in the ground at Michigan City High School, Krueger Middle School, Barker Middle School, Joy, Pine and Niemann elementaries and the school administration building.
Each of those facilities also received energy-efficient lighting.
Kohn said panels were not placed at the five remaining schools and other school corporation-owned structures because they lacked space on the grounds for a solar farm.
By mid-December, all of the panels were generating electricity.
Tony Kuykendall, business development manager with Performance Services, of Indianapolis, said the amount of electricity generated at each school varies depending primarily on the size of the solar arrays at each site.
On average, there will be a 52 percent reduction in energy consumption.
The annual cost savings was estimated at slightly more than $700,000, officials said.
Kuykendall said electricity from the solar panels will go directly to the schools for immediate use.
Any excess will go into the grid and sold by the school corporation to NIPSCO, he said.
Kuykendall said the only time the solar arrays won’t produce any electricity is when they’re snow covered or there’s rain under extreme cloud cover or if they’re down for maintenance.
NIPSCO will be the provider when demand is greater than what the panels are producing.
"Just like they always had in the past, they’re still going to get electricity that way," he said.
Kuykendall said his firm is currently installing solar panels at Westville School.