Allen Sokol, a seventh-grader, puts some light on a metal surfer and a solar-powered crab that starts walking Tuesday at an Energy Fair at Coleman High School. Wisconsin Public Service  and the SolarWise program were the sponsors. <B>EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Allen Sokol, a seventh-grader, puts some light on a metal surfer and a solar-powered crab that starts walking Tuesday at an Energy Fair at Coleman High School. Wisconsin Public Service and the SolarWise program were the sponsors. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
COLEMAN - Great things have been happening in the Coleman School District and on Tuesday morning, students, teachers and community members came together to celebrate another - the dedication of the school's recently-installed solar panels and its induction into the Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) SolarWise program.

A large 24-kilowatt solar-electric system was installed on the roof of the Coleman Elementary School in August as a part of the SolarWise for Schools program funded in part by the Wisconsin Public Service Community Foundation. The school district also received funding from Eland Electric Corp. and a grant from Focus on Energy. The school is estimated to save an average of $4,000 a year in energy costs.

"With money earmarked for special energy-saving products, such as this one, solar power became a reality here at Coleman," said Jamie Graetz, vice president of the Coleman School Board. "With this cost-saving measure, our school is now on the leading edge of energy conservation."

State Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and State Rep. Jeff Mursau (R-Crivitz) attended the dedication assembly along with other representatives from WPS, the SolarWise program and the Coleman School District.

Hansen pointed out that it is programs like SolarWise that shape the future for many students.

"Someday, we may look back at this day and realize it was here that scientists and engineers got their first lesson in alternative energy," he said. "It was here that the road to renewable energy began and it was here that the challenge of obtaining clean, renewable energy was met."

Mursau also shared a few words of encouragement.

"We know there are a lot of environmental things that we have to deal with in this state and in this country. Renewable energy is just one part of what we have to do to help," he said. "This can help show people how important it is to share the responsibility in creating and using renewable energy sources."

During the assembly, Coleman High School Principal Doug Polomis and Superintendent Brian Walters accepted a plaque, a sign and a flag from WPS and the SolarWise program on behalf of the school district commemorating its induction into the SolarWise program.

The SolarWise program uses the WPS Community Foundation to provide schools with solar panels and installation, maintenance on those panels for 15 years, a 26-week lesson plan with resources to learn about the renewable energy source and training for teachers who will use the curriculum.

The students will also be invited to compete with other schools in WPS's Solar Olympics each spring. Coleman is the 51st out of 64 eligible schools to participate in the SolarWise program.

"Along with this Solar Olympics thing that you're getting, what's behind it is science and math and technology," said Mike Moore, the program manager for SolarWise for Schools. "These are the sort of things that are going to help make a difference for each one of you as you decide to go out and start a career and make some money."

After the assembly, students and community members were invited to the Energy Fair held by WPS and the SolarWise program. Exhibits included a Chevrolet Volt electric car and other displays on renewable energies and the environment.