Glenn Elementary will get solar power under a plan initiated by an Eldridge firm, but awarded Monday to a low bidder from Dubuque.
Stutting credited Century Electric, of Eldridge for working with the district to design a pilot solar panel plan the district hopes to replicate at all schools one day.
“Eric Long and Century pitched it to us and helped with our request for proposals,” Stutting told the board. “We would have loved to stay with Century. They brought it to us. But state law is state law when it comes to low bidders.
Century bid $195,000, right in the middle of five qualified bids.
The board awarded Eagle Point Solar of Dubuque a $176,900 contract to install solar panels on the south side of Glenn’s property. Stutting said the bid includes removal of some pine trees.
Eagle Point sales vice president Larry Steffen estimated the work would take 10-12 weeks. Stutting said heavy construction would likely begin after the school year.
The solar panels are part of the district’s plan to spend building funds to decrease operating costs. Stutting expects the panels to cut energy costs $23,000 a year, freeing up cash for education and other operational expenses.
Steffen said he expects a rush to solar as battery innovations will make power storage a possibility in as little as two years.
“I expect you’ll see commercial clients, schools, governments all moving to batteries that can store power for overnight or longer term use,” said Steffen, a founder of the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association.
Board member Donn Wilmott asked if the district might face new fees under a bill supported by MidAmerican Energy, Alliant and Iowa’s other big utility firms.
Steffen said he was hopeful the Iowa Senate will kill a bill that will require some solar panel users to pay higher fees to utility companies. He said the bill represents Iowa power companies’ chance to invoke new fees for selling power back to the grid before onsite power storage becomes common.