Empowering Students with Solar Schools
Sunsense Solar is a member of Amicus Solar Cooperative, a group of PV integrators and EPCs who work together to lower costs, improve operational efficiencies and share best practices. Over the next few months we will be featuring stories on various topics that include perspectives from some of our fellow Amicus members. We hope you enjoy this series of posts!
This month’s topic is Solar is Cool for Schools and so we asked Amicus members to fill us in on their school based solar projects.
Here’s what Gordon from New York based Taitem Engineering had to say:
The Cherry Road classrooms were also designed with an east-west orientation which allowed them to take advantage of the northern daylight, and a 25 kW photovoltaic array sits on the roof. Water from lower roofs is channeled into a “rain garden”, where it collects at one end and progresses through a series of natural processes including evaporation, and absorption into soil reducing the impact of runoff on overtaxed municipal systems while nourishing an array of native plants. From passive solar to PV arrays and harvesting rainwater, all aspects of the building provide an educational opportunity for students and their community.
Fred from New England’s ReVision Energy had this to add:
ReVision Energy was recently proud to be part of working on the first net zero school in the state of Maine, a new building for The Friends School in Portland.
The Friends School is impressive enough simply that it is being built to Passive House Standards, an extremely challenging set of standards based on achieving a high level of airtightness, minimal energy usage and minimal heat load. What energy the Friends School does need will be provided through a grid-tied photovoltaic array installed by ReVision Energy, and financed through an intergenerational partnership with Oceanview at Falmouth. The way this arrangement works, is, since the School (as a nonprofit) does not qualify for tax-based solar incentives, Oceanview (a private business) will purchase, own, and operate the system (on the roof of the Friends School) for a period of 6 years, during which time Oceanview will sell the power to the school. At the end of the 6-year period, the School can opt to purchase and own the system outright, or, continue to make payments as part of the power purchase agreement. While more popular in some of the bigger solar markets, this kind of PPA is fairly uncommon in Maine and it is the first time that an outside investor with charitable interests has funded a solar array for a school in this way. The project has garnered national attention, including that on ME Senator Angus King (I) who cited it as an example of what his keynote legislation, The Free Market Energy Act of 2015, would help support.
Grace from Lightwave Solar in Tennessee shared the following:
LightWave Solar is the lead solar subcontractor under general contractor, Ameresco, Inc., and construction commenced in August. The $12.45 million project, financed by Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECBs), is scheduled to be completed in early 2016, and it is expected to provide more than $29 million in energy savings to Knox County over the next 30 years. “Our renewable energy project is fiscally responsible, saves taxpayer money and makes good business sense for the County and our entire community,” said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. “This solar project will pay for itself and reduce utility costs which means it’s good for our taxpayers and the environment. It’s a win-win no matter how we look at it.” Knox County Schools plans to use the project as an educational tool to teach students about solar energy and emphasize the importance of sustainability. To start, the system at L&N STEM Academy will be monitored and data will be displayed on a kiosk for interactive learning opportunities with students. The project will reduce CO2 emissions by over 5,000 metric tons annually, the equivalent to removing approximately 1,057 cars from the road every year.
As for Sunsense Solar, we are happy to report that we have implemented several projects for schools over the years and we are proud of the role we have played in helping to educate young people on energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. We are particularly excited about our latest school project, for the Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale, CO, as the 380 kW array will power 100% of the school’s electricity needs. Interestingly the project was initiated by a group of students from the high school’s energy club. The club’s main purpose is to find ways to make the school more energy efficient and many of the student members had been pushing for solar in their school district since they had been in middle school. They worked tremendously hard to help convince the school district Board of Directors on the merits of solar through a third party finance agreement, and it has been very gratifying to witness these students realize their ambitions and see that, with effort and perseverance, they really can make a difference.