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Public can get look at Darlington schools new solar energy system
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DARLINGTON - The Darlington School District will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday for its new solar energy system, one of the largest in the state.

The Darlington Solar Education Project is a system of solar photovoltaic panels mounted on the roof of Darlington Elementary and Middle School.

The system is estimated to generate approximately 200,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, said district administrator Denise Wellnitz.

Wellnitz said the system is one of the largest solar energy systems in the state and the largest system built for a Wisconsin public school campus.

The system has an energy capacity of 156 kW, generating that much power in one hour under full sunlight. Throughout the year, the system will generate about 19 percent of the district's total power usage, Wellnitz said.

The system will save the district about $15,000 in total energy charges per year. In addition, it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 400,000 pounds per year.

The district was awarded two grants for its plan for the installation. Wisconsin energy efficiency program awarded the district a $63,000 grant, while the USDA awarded it an additional $61,000.

The remainder of the system's cost was donated by a "green-minded business provider," Wellnitz said.

The installation provides energy to both the elementary/middle school and Darlington High School.

The system was installed in January and has been operating since February, but the ribbon-cutting event will allow members of the public to view the installation firsthand.

Wellnitz said district officials have tentatively discussed an eventual expansion of the installation at some point in the future.