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RACINE —Walden middle and high school is getting some new exterior doors thanks to solar panels on the roof.

Four pairs of “really, really old decrepit doors” that let in blasts of cold air in the winter are being swapped out for newer, sturdier and more energy-efficient doors this week using funds that have been generated or will be generated from selling solar panel energy to We Energies, explained Walden teacher Tom Rutkowski.

The panels, paid for with grant and fundraiser dollars, started generating energy in January 2009 and the doors are the first thing that energy is funding, Rutkowski said. Parents are glad the project is happening because they spent the last few years fearing Walden might never see money from the panels since Racine Unified is the middleman in the Walden-We Energies transaction.

“That’s good to hear the efforts are paying off,” said Walden parent Patrick Flynn, 49, of Caledonia, who works in franchise development. “(Parents) were concerned the funding wasn’t going to go back directly to the school.”

That’s because Walden sells energy to We Energies for 22.5 cents per kilowatt hour, double the rate at which the company sells energy to area consumers. Then We Energies subtracts that amount from Racine Unified’s bill and the district, in turn, is supposed to pass that savings on to Walden, 1012 Center St., Rutkowski said.

That money took time to reach Walden, making parents nervous, but now the $17,000 accrued so far will pay for one and a half of the new door pairs. The district will cover the tab for the other doors initially, though future solar panel energy sales should more than pay for them, Rutkowski said.

Walden students were involved in deciding how to spend the money, Rutkowski said.

“We talked about what would be the most efficient use of that money. Storm windows are also useful but everybody knows standing next to those doors is cold,” he said. “(The new doors) are going to be a big savings in energy and they’ll look a lot better and will be a lot more secure.”

The new door installation began Tuesday.

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