Investigating Energy Savings at Ridgeway Community School

November 2021

Ridgeway Community School needed help exploring options to reduce their energy costs.

While they were able to trim their ongoing energy needs by replacing 200 fluorescent bulbs with LED bulbs, via an Xcel Energy rebate program, a disappointing discovery put their plan for a solar photovoltaics (PV) array on hold.

We spoke with Jodi Dansingburg, School Coordinator, Ridgeway Community School. 

Tell us about the project

This project allowed us to get technical expertise to research the best location and financial arrangement for a school- or community-based solar array on or adjacent to our school grounds that would reduce the school’s reliance on fossil fuel based electricity, reduce the school’s energy costs, and serve as a demonstration project. This project accomplished this goal by hiring a knowledgeable contractor, Ted Redmond (paleBLUEdot llc), to assist us with the logistical and financial research necessary to develop a feasible plan for a PV array that would offset some or all of the school’s electrical usage.

As a small school with limited administrative staff time and financial resources, the school’s staff did not have time or expertise to look into various solar PV options that would best meet the school’s needs. In addition, based on conversations with Ted about energy conservation, we were able to utilize the Xcel Energy rebate program to replace 200 of our 32 watt fluorescent bulbs with 15 watt LED bulbs, thereby reducing the school’s ongoing energy needs.

The CERTs staff was very helpful, in facilitating conversations with our research consultant, and helping to put us in contact with other resource people to answer our questions. We also greatly appreciate the flexibility in the time frame to complete this project after we were blindsided by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jodi Dansingburg, Ridgeway Community School

But then...A Problem

At the current time, we have hit a bit of a dead end in the direction we were hoping to go to follow-up with this project. It looks like the Xcel Energy feeder that the school is on has had nine of the large 1 MW Xcel Energy Solar Garden applications submitted in 2020. It is looking like that will nearly consume all the generation allowed for the area which is sad as the school, nor any other resident that lives on our line will be able to build solar for their house or farm. Even if there ends up being capacity, Xcel Energy is saying it is a 7 year wait for any new application on our feeder. We will continue to lobby to have the ability to develop our own solar project on our service line. However, if we are unsuccessful we will look into one of the community solar gardens that is being developed in our area. 
It is kind of frustrating after all this time to run into this roadblock, but we will keep on working to try to find the solar PV option that best fits our needs.

How did people hear about the project?

The results of the project were shared with both the school’s board of directors and the school’s non-profit landlord, the Ridgeway Community Association’s board of directors. The results were also shared with the school’s neighbor to the east, whom the study suggested had the best land available for a possible community solar garden, and a neighbor to the south who already has a 40 kW solar array installed on his farm. Both boards and neighbors were favorable to the project’s goal and the resulting suggestions of the technical report. 

Without the support to research the best options to pursue a solar PV electrical generation, our small school would not have had the resources to pursue such a project.

Clean Energy Focus: LED lighting installed and Solar PV Study

Southeast CERT Seed Grant: $2,000

Total Project Cost: $4,180

Other Funds: school budget, utility rebate

Project Team: Jodi Dansingburg, Ridgeway Community School; Ted Redmond,  Pale Blue Dot; Chris Meyer, Clean Energy Resource Teams; Tim Kohner, KB Materials; Mike Gilles, Gilles Family Farm/RCS Finance Committee; Steve Groth, Ridgeway Community Association (Landlord); Kelsie Traverse, Minnesota Green Corps Member at the City of Winona

People Involved and Reached: 122

Annual Energy Savings: 8,235 kWh

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