High School Puts Flat Roof to Work, Shaves Energy Bill With Free Solar Panels

Updated: 11/01/2022

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Thanks to Novel Energy Solutions in Rochester, Minnesota, Hayfield High School’s new school year began on a positive, environmentally friendly note. Towards the end of summer, the clean energy provider installed 40 kilowatts of solar energy panels on top of the gym’s flat roof, completely for free.

According to Novel’s chief operating officer Bill Holzer, the 97 collectors generate between 54,000 to 56,000 kilowatt hours annually for the school. All the energy collected by these solar panels goes directly to the school, and supply about 5% of the school’s electrical need.

Though it might not sound like the solar panels are providing all that much power for the school, they’re actually trimming about $3,000 off of the school’s annual energy costs for 20 years, said Novel’s chief executive officer Cliff Kaehler.

Best of all, perhaps, Novel was able to install the system for free — including maintenance — thanks to investors who took advantage of the Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program, which rewards investors who buy products manufactured in Minnesota and offers state energy credits for renewable energy. The credit was used in this instance because the panels were made in the Twin Cities.

According to Holzer, the company approached the school board with the idea last fall, saying that “They are a very forward-looking school board.”

Of course, the plans might have fallen through if the school hadn’t had enough room for the solar panels, but thanks to the gym’s flat roof, there was plenty of real estate for the solar panels.

“There’s a lot of real estate on a flat roof that is not being used,” said Holzer. “It’s cheaper to use that property, it’s the roof that no one uses.”

“The advantage of installing solar panels on flat roofs is that flat roof generally have a parapet wall around the perimeter of them, therefore hiding or disguising solar panels out of view of the public eye. Then you are able to increase energy benefits from the sun and not detract from the looks of the building” says Matthew Rock, Owner of Rock’s Roofing, Inc. “The reason why many flat roofs are installed is construction cost. All the rafters and plywood needed for a sloped roof are not in the cost of construction and allows a building owner who is conservative on costs to install a flat roof instead of a sloped roof. Flat roofs in Denver, CO are okay when installed with positive drainage, proper roofing materials, and obviously a quality installer.”

The solar panels not only help the district cut costs, but according to Superintendent Belinda Selfours, students will also get to monitor the panels as a new, educational opportunity. Science students will get to learn more about solar energy, and math students can analyze the panels’ data.

Since the whole school has a flat roof, it’s quite possible that the panels could be expanded in the future.