Students fund solar panels
Schools often sell chocolate bars or magazine subscriptions to make money. UMEI Christian high school is thinking bigger.
The 50-student private school is installing 349 solar panels on the roofs of its gymnasium and chapel. The school has signed a 20-year contract with the Ontario Power Authority to generate power under Ontario’s Feed In Tariff Green Energy Program. UMEI expects to make in excess of $73,000 in revenue in the first year of the deal.
“It’s a financially attractive project for the school,” said David Epp, chairman of the school’s board of directors.
The school is scouring the Mennonite community and beyond for $500,000 in donations to pay for the solar project. Every dollar donated will generate $3 in future revenue. The fundraising campaign doesn’t officially begin until Sunday, but already the school has found major benefactors for the project in Uni-Fab, Highline Mushrooms and the Mennonite Savings and Credit Union.
Finances are a challenge for the school, which gets no government funding, Epp said. Families pay up to $6,300 a year in tuition to send their children there.
The school relies on donations from area Mennonite churches and corporate sponsors.
Students and parents hold eight fundraising meals and a golf tournament each year to raise money. The school also rents out its gymnasium and other amenities.
Making money from the sun shining down on the roof seems an easier alternative, Epp said. It will give the school “long-term financial stability.”
A new steel roof is being installed on the chapel roof to accommodate the solar panels.