The Forest City School Board on Feb. 8 unanimously approved entering into a contract agreement with ISG and Consulting Engineers Group (CEG) to design and plan a future solar generation project on undeveloped school grounds behind its baseball and football fields.
ISG will provide survey, civil, environmental, structural, permitting, construction administration, and project closing services. CEG will provide electrical engineering, coordination with the local electric utility, connect-to-grid, energy modeling, bidding, construction administration, and project closing services.
Parties agreed upon a $96,000 total cost for services, which does not include the cost of soil borings, review and permit related costs, and any special inspection costs that may be required.
Superintendent Darwin Lehmann noted that land where the solar project would be located will need to be annexed into the city, but initial work could begin soon after enrollment in the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) ends in October 2021.
“The other key part of the contract is an out clause for the district,” said Lehmann. “At any given time during this planning process that an obstacle comes up that we are unable to address, we do not pay for the remainder of the work in the contract.”
ISG is a nationally recognized multi-disciplinary design and engineering firm offering architecture, engineering, environmental and planning capabilities. The firm previously designed more dynamic athletic fields/facilities for the Forest City community. Based in Lakeville, Minnesota, CEG engineers and builds high efficiency wind and solar generation systems.
The district also has $150,000 set aside for anticipated future repairs to its existing wind turbine that has generated low-cost electricity for more than two decades. A new gearbox could extend the life of the turbine another 20 years and may increase its efficiency.
School board members also cited the importance of maintaining renewable energy sources given a recent trend of higher utility costs. Lehmann suggested that as the project moves forward, new solar generation could be added in phases. School Board Member Gary Ludwig agreed that the ability to complete a solar generation project in phases is appealing. He said it should allow the district to adapt to any changing circumstances that may arise going forward.
The larger vision is to ultimately install a one-megawatt solar panel array somewhere on 17-plus acres that was purchased by school district in fall of 2019. Funding for the land purchase came from Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE), funded by the statewide penny sales tax revenue.
Lehmann said the additional electricity generation from solar would help offset general fund costs and add another visible educational renewable energy resource to school grounds.
Test plots for crops of vocational agriculture/Future Farmers of America (FFA) classes on the new grounds is also planned. There is ample space for both the solar collectors and growing plots, officials said.
In other business:
• Forest City Community School District Communications Director Kristin Heidemann announced plans for a small-scale redesign of the school district website.
Heidemann said she is reviewing and updating the site. What she describes as the clean new design with easy means of finding information and other website features could be completed in the next several weeks.
• Heidemann also provided school board members a proposal for updating their Board Policy Handbook. The proposal includes aligning it with IASB policies and updating the board policies in series. All school board policies are reviewed over a five-year period. The change could improve efficiency, effectiveness, and timely availability of information. The school board agreed to test the proposed new process at its next regular meeting.
• The board approved a $101,278 bus purchase with Hoglund Bus Company. A three-month to six-month delivery period is anticipated.
Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.