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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – A local school district is turning sunshine into gold… well figuratively speaking.  Hundreds of solar panels now mounted on the roofs of five Mehlville District schools will produce electricity below the cost of purchasing it.

The South St. Louis County schools turned on their systems this week, expecting to cut the district’s carbon footprint and help teach students about renewable energy.

“It was done with a lease that basically fixes our energy cost over the next 20 years,” said Mehlville Superintendent Eric Knost.  He expects the systems which were installed on five school roof tops will save at least 130 thousand dollars over the next 20 years.  “We’re very excited about that,” said Knost.

The district is paying a set lease fee of $2200 per school building to use the power generating panels over the next two decades.

“This system could power two full homes on a daily basis,” said Eric Swillinger of StraightUp Solar, the firm that installed the panels. “The whole concept is replacing a block of energy from the school and power it by the solar panels that are on site  at a cheaper rate,” explained Swillinger.  It is estimated the system at Beasley Elementary School will meet three to five percent of the power demand.

In addition to saving costs, the system also provides a continuous update on how the equipment is saving energy.  School officials expect students will use the raw data to study the system’s effectiveness.

Mehlville School Board President Venki Palamand encouraged the district to launch the program.  “It’s a small step for now; but I’d like to think we are ahead of the curve based on the fact there’s only a couple of school districts I think have done this,” Palamand said.

He is also hopeful that the equipment will prove to be an inspiration.  “It’s my hope that the younger generation, kids in elementary school..middle school and high school will look at this as a learning experience and perhaps be inspired to potentially move into a career based on renewable energy.”
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