Students walk into Hunting Hills High School, which is one of the Red Deer Public Schools with solar panels on its roof. (Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff)

Provincial solar panel program catches Red Deer school districts’ attention

A new provincial solar panel program has caught the attention of both Red Deer school districts.

The government recently introduced the Solar for Schools program, which will help schools across the province cut electricity costs, reduce emissions and expand environmental knowledge.

The government will invest $15 million from the Climate Leadership Plan to install more solar panels on schools. The program provides funding to install rooftop panels with rebates of up to $1.50 per watt on the solar energy generated to offset the school’s energy costs.

Della Ruston, Red Deer Public Schools associate superintendent of system services, said the school district is “very interested in participating” in the program.

“We’re always interested in saving money and we think it’s a really smart, forward direction.

“Anything we can do to reduce our energy consumption would be a bonus, because it means we can spend money on other things for more educational purposes,” said Ruston.

A few schools in the district already have solar panels: Hunting Hills High School, Glendale Sciences and Technology School and Aspen Heights Elementary School, which is also looking at adding wind technology. West Park Middle School will also soon have solar panels.

The Solar for Schools program aims to have an educational component for students as well.

“We think it’s really important for (students) to understand how these systems work. They’re our future leaders and it’s important they can embrace some systems that are forward-thinking and that will improve our energy consumption,” said Ruston.

Paul Mason, Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools superintendent, said the district looks forward to “exploring how the solar program can be implemented in our schools.

“We are happy to see that this program encourages us to continue to be stewards of the environment and to have a greener footprint,” said Mason.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said in a press release she can’t think of “a better class project than rooftop solar panels.

“Alberta is as sunny as Rio de Janeiro and the future of solar in this province has never been brighter. Schools have stepped up as enthusiastic partners in our plan to reduce emissions, recognizing that the future will be one where economy goes hand in hand with environment,” Phillips said.

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