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La Crosse school installs first of many solar-powered systems

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Summit Elementary 1

LA CROSSE, Wis. - (WXOW) - Summit Environmental School in La Crosse has installed its first of many solar-powered systems after donations and fundraising from the community.

A new solar panel powers the outdoor sign for Summit Elementary. Not only is this renewable energy source good for the environment, but the school will save money by not having to pay for the electricity that goes along with powering it. Summit Environmental School will also use it as a teaching tool for students.

"We are an environmental concept school and one of the things we are very interested in here and have been for many years is teaching students and giving them an environmental and sustainability education and we try to incorporate that in so much we do," said Dirk Hunter, Principal at Summit Environmental School.

The La Crosse Public Education Foundation teamed up with Solar on La Crosse Schools to raise the money necessary to complete this project. Solar on La Crosse Schools is a new group formed by community members of all ages that educate, advocate, and fundraise in order to make solar energy possible in La Crosse Schools.

They formed this spring. They've spent the past few months planning and fundraising.

"We're just excited that students now don't just have to watch a video about how all of this works but instead they can come out and live it," said Hunter.

As far as sustainability goes, it is tracked by a little compartment on the back of the solar panel. They are able to see how much energy is coming in and how much they are using.

"Over time now we can track that data and if we can do this with this size of a panel what can you do with five panels or 10 panels and then of course it goes on and on from there," said Hunter.

The district and group are going to find out what they can do with more panels quite soon while working on their next project at Hamilton Elementary.

"A hundred kilowatt system at Hamilton Elementary and that is slated to begin next summer as there's an addition happening at Hamilton," said Alysa Remsburg, Co-Director of Solar on La Crosse Schools and Senior Lecturer of Environmental Studies at University of Wisconsin La Crosse. "These solar panels should be effective for at least 30-35 years of giving us free energy and all those savings will go directly to other school district needs. So Hamilton Elementary will be saving about $10,000 a year from that hundred kilowatt system."

Solar on La Crosse Schools will raise $35,000, or about 20 percent of the funding for the project. Grants picked up the same amount. An anonymous donor provided the money for the remainder. They are accepting donations at the Solar on La Crosse Schools or the La Crosse Education Public Foundation's website and anything from the community helps.

Remsburg said the fact that this new solar-powered system can do all of these things while still benefitting the environment makes it an out of this world investment that many others should consider as well.

"It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from burning the fossil fuels that we are currently using to get our electricity," said Remsburg. "It's a very tangible way of supporting a local economy and local education opportunities."

"Anytime you can improve the use of our renewable resources it is just healthier for everyone," said Hunter. "It's an important thing for all of us. It doesn't matter if you're an elementary-aged student or what age you are, this is an important thing for all of us to understand."

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Rylie Kyhn

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