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Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change

Oregon Opens the First Net-Zero School in Wisconsin


By Sarah Kohlbeck

Aerial photo of solar on Forest Edge School

In 2020, the Oregon School District opened Forest Edge Elementary School, a 126,000 square foot new construction elementary school. 

The Oregon School District Superintendent Dr. Leslie Bergstrom shared, "The school has been designed to efficiently use and conserve energy.  In fact, it is a "net zero" building, which means it will produce at least as much energy as it uses in a year."

As defined by the U.S. Department of Energy, a zero-energy building is, “an energy-efficient building where, on a source energy basis, the actual annual delivered energy is less than or equal to the on-site renewable exported energy.” Net-zero energy buildings are typically very efficient with renewable energy systems that provide the small amount of energy required for the facility.

Forest Edge Elementary School includes solar energy systems that produce 100% of all on-site energy needs. This building is the first net zero energy school in Wisconsin, setting the precedent for future builds. 

According to OSD Superintendent Dr. Leslie Bergstrom; "Forest Edge Elementary was carefully designed, together with our teachers, to provide a safe, effective, and inspiring learning environment for children."

The design of Forest Edge focuses greatly on facilitating a supportive learning environment for student. Dr. Bergstrom explains, "The building design incorporates features known to create relevant and empowering learning opportunities, including natural light, collaboration spaces, small group instruction areas, and outdoor classroom spaces."

The key elements highlighted in this new school are the array of environmentally sustainable features. Dr. Bergstrom elaborated; "Building a school in 2020 offers the opportunity to leverage a number of environmental technologies to create sustainable features, such as solar panels, natural lighting, geothermal heating & cooling, daylighting controls, battery storage, and electric car charging stations."

The school is taking this opportunity to teach their students and the community about solar energy. There is a viewing area to see the 646kW DC/500kW AC rooftop solar PV system installed by Full Spectrum Solar; students can also learn about the geothermal heating and cool system. The viewing area also includes an energy dashboard that showcases the school’s sustainability features and reports ongoing energy performance in relation to the net zero energy target.

Watch a tour of the solar electric system. 


Watch a video of the Forest Edge School construction. 


Recognizing the Forest Edge accomplishment, RENEW Wisconsin named the Oregon School District its Renewable Energy Champion of 2021.


The Oregon School District's Forest Edge School is a great example of how Dane County local governments are leading on efficiency and climate action. The Office of Energy & Climate Change is excited to share climate success stories like this one. 

  • Do you have an environmental success story you would like to share with us? Let us know
  • Earn public recognition for your efforts by applying for our Climate Champions awards.


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