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Kaneland Schools' Renewable Energy Journey

December 21, 2022

Project Highlights

Location: Kane County, Illinois

Industry: K-12

Topic: Decarbonization, Sustainability, Efficiency, Energy Services, Financial Solutions, Solar,


Reduce energy costs and increase sustainability through solar energy generation

  • Installed 1.89MW Solar PV systems across four school buildings within the district
  • Used a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to fund the project without needing costly up-front capital investment
  • Benefited from local, state, and Federal tax credits, rebates, and incentives
  • Reduced electrical consumption, demand, and costs
  • In total, since project completion just over a year ago, has saved 3.175GWh, which is equivalent to:
    • Removing over 240,000 miles driven by fuel-powered vehicles
    • Planting approximately 140 acres of clean air-producing trees
  • Reduced facility carbon footprint, increased renewable energy portfolio

Kaneland Community Unit School District Creates More Sustainable Operations through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Trane  


Comprised of 140 square miles and 11 zip codes throughout Kane County, Illinois, Kaneland Community Unit School District was formed to consolidate rural school districts into larger, modern entities.

As environmentally conscious stewards of taxpayer funding, school district leaders wanted to find opportunities to help to cut energy use and reduce costs while making facility operations more sustainable. Any project requiring major capital spending wasn’t an option, making the kind of renewable energy solutions the district desired cost prohibitive through traditional funding methods.  



As a provider and service collaborator of its HVAC equipment, Trane had a long-term, trusted relationship with Kaneland Community Unit School District. When discussions started about working together to add solar generation to buildings throughout the district, leaders were confident that Trane’s established consultative expertise was the right fit to successfully complete the project.

“We received a lot of proposals from companies that we had never heard of,” said Mark Payton, Kaneland School District’s director of buildings and grounds. “Trane’s longstanding reputation as well as our personal experience working with them, instilled confidence that they had the skillset and longevity to ensure we would accomplish our project goals.”

Determining Optimal Solar Configuration Across Building Portfolio

District officials worked with Trane to assess each building and determine the optimal configuration for the solar equipment. Each building had a unique configuration and set of requirements. For example, many buildings are in residential areas so a ground mount system would be impractical and disruptive to the neighbors. Alternatively, if a building had an older roof, adding a roof mount system might not be possible. It was important to the district to develop a customized plan that would be the least disruptive to students, staff, and neighbors.

On behalf of Kaneland School District, Trane installed 1.89MW of Solar PV across four sites: John Stewart Elementary School, John Shields Elementary School, Harter Middle School, and Kaneland High School.

Funding the Project with a Power Purchase Agreement

Early in the discussion, Trane presented the idea of using a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to fund the project. With this unique funding method, Kaneland School District was able to install the solar and was guaranteed a new fixed rate for energy, which funded the solar investment and provides ongoing energy savings for the district. This meant Kaneland could add solar generation to its facilities with no upfront capital required. It also allowed the district to take advantage of state and federal incentives like the Illinois Shines incentive, a federal investment tax credit, and local utility ComEd’s distributed generation rebate, for which it would have otherwise not been eligible. Trane worked with the school district to secure funding and ensure they received the most optimal energy rates while taking advantage of available incentives and tax credits.

“When Trane presented PPA as a funding option for our project, a light bulb went off,” said Payton. “We’ve wanted to add solar to our buildings for years but coming up with the funding for the initial investment made it seem impossible. Being able to show our school board and other stakeholders that we could install solar without upfront investment is what allowed us to finally complete the project.”

Birds eye view of solar panels and the school


By adding solar power to its energy mix, Kaneland Community Unit School District was able to achieve significant cost savings and helped to improve the sustainability of its operations. The PPA structure allowed the district to accomplish its goals without upfront capital investment.

Since project completion in early 2021, the district has achieved significant savings while reducing its carbon footprint. In total, the district has saved 3.175GWh, which is equivalent to:

  • Removing over 240,000 miles driven by fuel-powered vehicles
  • Planting approximately 140 acres of clean air-producing trees

“It continues to become clear that we need to conserve energy and do what we can to protect the environment for future generations,” said Payton. “We want to be a leader and set an example for our students to show that we are committed to protecting the planet for their future.”