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Des Moines Public Schools powers up Jefferson Elementary on solar power

The school district installed more than 600 solar panels on the roof of the school over the summer to offset 70% of energy costs.

DES MOINES, Iowa — For two weeks now, Jefferson Elementary School in Des Moines has been operating, mostly, on its own power. That's because of some newly installed solar panels.

"This is the first in the district to generate our own power," said Tyler Puls, energy and environmental specialist with Des Moines Public Schools.

It's been a years-long pursuit for Puls and his team.

"It took a lot of research and investigation to figure out if the project was feasible," he said.

That means the district had to make sure the project will eventually pay for itself and determine how quickly that can happen.

"The project total project cost is around $280,000. For the solar array, the simple payback of the project is 10 to 12 years," said Puls.

District administrators project the school will generate enough power to cover up to 70% of its energy needs. And when the 626 solar panels produce more power than the campus is using, the electricity goes back to the grid resulting in a credit for the district.

"This project really is kind of a pivotal point for me to determine if this is a good option going forward," said Puls.

And it might be, said Puls, especially if the system lasts as long as expected which is close to 25 years.

"This is something that I'm proud of as a school district," said Puls, "It's very rewarding for me to see all these panels up here and kind of know that we're generating power based on the sun."