A ribbon cutting ceremony marked the beginning of the Parkway School District's solar panel installation program.
As previously reported by Patch, Parkway is installing 33 buildings with solar panels. The process is expected to be complete sometime in January. According to the Parkway School District, this is the largest school solar project in the state of Missouri.
Tuesday's ceremony was held at Barretts Elementary School in Manchester, which will be the first school to receive the panels. Each building will have 100 panels installed on it.
"I'm really excited that Parkway has taken a leadership role and proud of our school board for making this a reality," said Superintendent Keith Marty. "I'd like to think that Parkway is a district that thinks toward the future."
He also said the district is always thinking about ways it can partner with companies and individuals.
In fact it was a partnership with Brightergy Solar Solutions that led to the district leasing the solar energy system, from Brightergy for $72,300 a year, over 20 years. The panels will generate energy for electricity.
"It's incredible how supportive the Parkway schools are about this. They really mean business," Cindy Bambini with Brightergy tells Patch. "I'm delighted that they're first."
It was in May that the Parkway School Board voted to move forward with the program outfitting the buildings with solar panels.
"We knew it was going to happen quickly," Parkway School Board President Beth Feldman tells Patch. "Hopefully we'll start seeing some of the energy savings in this cold winter."
Feldman also reiterated Tuesday what she said when she voted to approve the program in May, "It's a win, win, win."
"it's environmentally sound, it's economically sound and it's educationally sound,"Feldman said. "I really don't see a down side."
In addition to saving energy, Barretts Elementary School Principal Kelli Moreton said the solar panels will be used as an educational tool.
"Brightergy is putting a LED monitor in our lobby so that the kids can see how much energy is being used and conserved," Moreton said.
She said most of the children are already familiar with recycling through school and their families, but this is a new subject for students.
"So this new solar panel installation will be new learning to them," Moreton tells Patch.
A student from each grade level at the school was randomly selected to be a member of the "Green Team" that cut the ribbon Tuesday morning.
Erik Lueders, sustainability and purchasing manager with Parkway, said the new solar panels will allow Parkway to receive and use "clean" energy directly from the sun.
He said the district overall is trying to create environments which are conducive to learning and also save the district money and energy.
"On top of installing solar panels, which is an excellent education piece, we also do a couple things involving efficiency and conservation," Lueders said.
This district working to use current systems that are already on place more wisely, including compostable lunch trays, turning off lights, unplugging microwaves and mini fridges and using technology wiser.
Lueders also said as the district purchases new heating and cooling systems and lights, it purchases energy efficient products.
"It's going to save us more and more money in the end," Lueders said.
The panels will save the district an estimated $14,194 the first year and have no up front installation cost, Parkway School District Spokesperson Cathy Kelly previously told Patch. She said savings could reach more than $1.4 million over the life of the contract which runs until 2033.
*EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect that, according to the Parkway School District, the solar panels should be installed by some time in January and this is the largest school solar project in the state of Missouri.