Our Solar Panel Donation Program

October 13, 2022

The lasting partnerships OneEnergy builds with landowners and the communities where our solar projects are constructed are a source of pride for us. We value incorporating community outreach into our projects, which is why we started a solar panel donation program. This donation program helps further connect with the communities where we’re working and achieve our goals of contributing to education about renewable energy and spreading awareness about the benefits of renewable energy.  

OneEnergy initiated our solar panel donation program in 2020 by donating panels to BRICK Ministries and the New Day Advocacy Center in Ashland, Wisconsin, following construction of the Ore Dock Community Solar Project. In 2021, OneEnergy partnered with Jackson Electric and JacksonSolar to provide solar panels to schools in the Alma Center-Humbird-Merrillan and Melrose-Mindoro School Districts. These schools are located near the Blue Prairie, Shamrock and Strobus solar facilities.  

When planning our procurement, we typically purchase spare panels to allow for some breakage in shipping and installation. When there are extra solar panels left over after construction, we seek out schools and non-profit organizations who might be able to put these extra solar modules to good use. At the start of the Blue Prairie solar project in Black River Falls, Eric Udelhofen, Vice President of Development at OneEnergy, reached out to Jackson Electric to see if there were any schools in the area that might be interested in installing solar.  

It turned out that Carol Blaken, Member Relations Manager at Jackson Electric, had been working with local school districts for several years to develop a solar energy project that would provide hands-on learning experiences for students. Alma Center-Humbird-Merrillan and Melrose-Mindoro School Districts were excited to partner with Jackson Electric and JacksonSolar to work on a solar energy project in their schools. Jackson Electric and JacksonSolar began planning the project, but funding was a hurdle. OneEnergy helped move the project forward by donating the solar panels, while JacksonSolar and Jackson Electric provided the remaining labor, equipment, and system commissioning services. 

The benefits of installing these panels at these school districts goes beyond the energy savings. The project has also provided an opportunity for students to learn about the benefits of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and factors to consider when installing solar panels. Seeing the panel installation process firsthand, and participating in the curriculum developed for the project, also give students a better understanding about career opportunities in the solar energy field. 

At Lincoln Elementary School in Merrillan, Wisconsin, fifth and sixth grade students are practicing their math skills by graphing the actual energy produced by the solar panels compared to the school’s total energy consumption. These monthly science lessons provide context, increase awareness, and prompt students to consider ways to meet energy demand. 

At Melrose-Mindoro High School in Melrose, Wisconsin, the panels offset energy consumed by the school’s maintenance shop. There is interest in planting a pollinator garden near the panels, which would allow students to explore ways that solar projects can coincide with other valuable land uses and provide ecosystem services. Melrose-Mindoro School provided a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the solar panel installation on September 27, 2022. 

This collaboration with schools and other organizations through OneEnergy’s solar panel donation program will continue because we believe in spreading education and awareness about solar energy to current and future generations. We are excited to have started this solar panel donation program in 2020 and we look forward to expanding it in the future with our growing portfoliio of projects, as well as to help other like-minded businesses launch similar efforts.  

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