Eden Prairie aims to be sustainable school leader

Lining the roof at Oak Point and Eagle Heights Elementary Schools in Eden Prairie are 2,200 solar panels. While the array only powers about two to 12 percent of the schools' energy usage, it’s only a small piece of the district’s efforts to reduce energy consumption.

Every single school in the district currently has solar panels on the roof, with expansion projects planned for the high school and Central Middle School next year. That combined with subscriptions to three community solar gardens, the district claims 85 percent of its energy consumption is coming from solar.

"Solar power was one of those areas that was easy for us to get into," said Executive Director of Business Services Jason Mutzenberger. "It didn’t cost us money on the front end but each year we receive savings from it."

Mutzenberger says the panels have required no capital investment, and are being paid for over the long term through the energy they generate. 

As a result of the investment, he estimates the district will see $6.1 million in general fund savings over the next 25 years.

"The money that we save… is going to be invested right back into classrooms and be a benefit to students," he said. 

Mutzenberger says Eden Prairie is a Twin Cities leader in school sustainability. He believes leaders at other districts have been hesitant to add a lot of solar because they’re worried about roof leaks from having panels up there.

"We’re trying to get the word out to other districts," he said. "I’ve attended a number of conferences and led discussions around the state about the switch the solar."

Eden Prairie is also hoping to switch its fleet of school buses to electric, but it is a very expensive task. They have applied for several federal grants, with hopes that they’ll get assistance in making the district even more sustainable.

"The ultimate goal for Eden Prairie is to be environmentally friendly… and to help the bottom line."