In many ways the story of how the Steelton-Highspire School District went solar is a story of
Pennsylvania’s on-going energy transition. The Steelton plant, constructed in 1866, was the
nation’s first mill in the United States dedicated exclusively to the process of making steel. The
town was a thriving manufacturing center until the 1970’s when the steel industry in
Pennsylvania began to move offshore. As the town shrank, so did the incomes of its residents.
Superintendent Mick Iskric, Jr., always working to balance the district’s budget, realized that
solar energy could help, not just one year but every year.
After doing their due diligence, the School District decided to negotiate a Power Purchase
Agreement for 100% of the School District’s electricity load. The site selected for this 1.6-
Megawatt system is on top of a settled landfill right behind the football field. This landfill is
another important part of Steelton’s history: In 1972, Hurricane Agnes caused severe flooding
of the Susquehanna River in the Harrisburg area. In fact, much of the western side of the town
flooded and many buildings had to be torn down. The area behind the high school became a
landfill and houses many of the remnants of the neighborhood known as the “West Side”.
Savings: The contract negotiated with McClure guarantees the district a savings of $13,000 a
year for the first 13 years, and approximately a savings of $200,000 a year going forward.
Education: Both the elementary and high schools have monitors displaying the solar array’s
production. All teachers have access to this dashboard in their classrooms. Students, especially
in STEM classes are using this data to convert solar generation to dollars saved, CO 2 emissions
avoided, and other applications.
Lessons Learned: “As an underfunded, urban school district, the Steelton-Highspire School
District supports innovative ways to offset expenditures that will directly support our students,”
said Superintendent Mick Iskric, Jr.. “Our solar energy project directly offsets 100% of the
district’s electric energy use. Utilizing solar to support our Clean School Bus initiative of seven
electric school buses will continue the School District’s mission to reduce our carbon footprint
as well as continuing to offset daily expenditures.”
Future plans: EV School Buses and Charging Facility: Through the hard work of Business
Manager, Mark “JJ” Carnes, the Steelton-Highspire School District has recently acquired 6 EV
school buses, which it plans to charge using its own solar array. This will provide additional
financial savings and potential revenue.
EV Car Charging: Steelton-Highspire School District is also considering installing charging
stations for EV charging for community members and visitors, as well as for school faculty and
staff. The School District believes that this could help them attract teachers and assist with the
ongoing teacher shortage that encompasses the state.
Solar Schools Tour Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mpusYVC5I4
Steelton-Highspire district unveils solar panel field: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGkTQQdnqtI
Recent article: https://www.pahouse.com/InTheNews/NewsRelease/?id=128682