maizesolar.jpg Stan Bergkamp/Twitter
A solar array next to Maize High School is providing energy to the campus.

Teacher's initiative brings solar array to Kansas high school

Stan Bergkamp, a physics and chemistry teacher at Maize High School near Wichita, persuaded the school board to install a 720-panel photovoltaic array in a field next to the school.

A high school in the suburbs of Wichita, Kan., has activated a solar power system capable of producing enough energy in one day to power the school for a month.

The Wichita Eagle reports that the 240-kilowatt system at Maize High School in Maize, Kan., consists of 720 solar panels and is the largest privately owned system in Kansas. Stan Bergkamp, a physics and chemistry teacher and the instigator of the project, says the system is 400 feet long and 75 wide and stands in an empty field adjacent to the high school.

Bergkamp says the threat of climate change is one of the driving forces for pursuing the project.

“I couldn’t talk to my chemistry classes about the acidification of the oceans or the bleaching of the coral reefs and personally not do something,” he says.

Once the system is paid for, it will save the school $3,200 a month, and more than $30,000 a year, as well as reduce annual carbon emissions by 240 tons, according to Bergkamp’s calculations.

In 2017, Bergkamp presented his plan to the school board. He wanted to use renewable solar energy to create enough electricity to power Maize High School. He has since raised more than $160,000 of the $400,000 needed, and financed the remaining funds through ICM Inc., an ethanol plant in Colwich, Kan.

The Maize school board supported the project, as did Bergkamp's students.

“Without doubt the strongest supporters I have are the students that I have, and kids I’ve taught,” Bergkamp says. “What I underestimated when I started the project was the emotional impact it would have on my students and how proud they are to be a part of it.”

ICM Inc. bought the $400,000 system and will lease it to Maize High School for six years, with an agreement to pay $2,000 a month until it is paid off. Bergkamp said they chose to finance the project through ICM because the company could receive a 30 percent tax credit on the infrastructure, and the school district could not.

Once the system is paid off, the plan is to do the same for Maize South High School and surrounding schools.

“The short-term goal would be to have every building in the district to have some type of solar energy to supplement their energies,” Bergkamp says. “The long-term goal is to use this as a model that other districts can use.”

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