Solar array powers newest Katy ISD junior high campus

The system has a 25-year warranty and, aside from an annual cleaning, requires little to no upkeep.  (Morgan Jones/Community Impact Newspaper)
The system has a 25-year warranty and, aside from an annual cleaning, requires little to no upkeep. (Morgan Jones/Community Impact Newspaper)

The system has a 25-year warranty and, aside from an annual cleaning, requires little to no upkeep. (Morgan Jones/Community Impact Newspaper)

Katy ISD’s newest junior high school is the first in the district to be largely powered by the sun.

Haskett Junior High School, which opened for the 2021-22 school year, is largely powered by a solar system that includes 1,044 375-watt solar panels set up on 1.35 acres adjacent to the school.

The solar array collects the solar energy through its rack-mounted panels and routes it through inverters that then distribute power back to the building’s electrical distribution system, KISD project manager Ryan Wotipka said.

The total cost of the array was $700,000, but the savings will be notable to the district, Wotipka said: The array is expected to reduce the school’s electrical utility consumption by 40% annually.

“The district is always reviewing our design initiatives to become more sustainable and limit our carbon footprint, and solar is one way that we felt like we could implement this system and save precious tax dollars in our maintenance and operations fund,” he said.


Another perk of using the solar system is the low maintenance required to keep it operating, Wotipka said. The system has a 25-year warranty and requires little to no consistent upkeep, he said.

“There’s not a lot of bells and whistles with this set up,” Wotipka said. “It just gets installed, and hopefully with a 25-year warranty, it’s going to pay back for us for a long time.”

The solar system was set up on the ground rather than on the roof of the school because it is cheaper to install and maintain at ground level, said Brian Hood, senior vice president with Leaf Engineers, the eco-friendly engineering firm behind the project.

The array works by tying into the school’s electrical grid, Hood said. The school’s first option will be to rely on solar power, he said, and when it is not using solar, it will rely on power from CenterPoint Energy.

The system will also be used as a teaching tool, Hood said. For example, students will be able to see how the array is performing on monitors installed throughout the campus.

“They’ll be able to see how much energy we collected today, how much energy we collected this week, this month,” he said. “That allows them to be able to use that information with their math class and their science curriculum—to be able to have that real-time interaction with the students and staff to be able to make that part of their instruction.”

Benefits such as sustainability, cost savings and teaching opportunities lead Hood to believe more districts will soon begin to power facilities in similar ways, he said.

“We are very excited about this,” Hood said.
By Laura Aebi

Editor, Katy and Sugar Land/Missouri City

Laura joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2020 after a few years in the public relations industry. Laura graduated from Texas State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Originally from North Texas, Laura relocated to Houston after spending three years in Pacific Northwest. Previously, she interned with two radio stations in Central Texas and held the role of features editor at the San Marcos Daily Record. Laura writes about local government, development, transportation, education, real estate and small businesses in these communities.



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