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Exeter High School a leader in energy efficiency (Seacoast Online)

From Seacoastonline.com

Exeter High School is at the head of the class when it comes to solar energy.

The high school roof will be adorned with the largest collection of solar panels in the state of New Hampshire — surpassing that of Stonyfield Farm in Londonderry and Public Service of New Hampshire”s headquarters in Manchester. This achievement in energy efficiency deserves high honors.

Thanks to a partnership with Revolution Energy and four others working together as New England Seacoast Energy Partnership, 394 15-foot solar panels will be added to Exeter High School by Dec. 31. These solar panels will not only put Exeter on the map for forward thinking for environment stewardship but will save taxpayers money as well.

According to Michael Behrmann, a principal with Revolution Energy, the panels at EHS will initially provide between 83 and 87 kilowatts of electricity with the hopes of reaching 100 kilowatts. Nathan Lunney, chief financial officer for School Admnistrative Unit 16, predicts this electricity will supply 7 to 10 percent of the school”s energy and save about $170,000 in the first year alone.

At Exeter”s Tuck Learning Campus, the former high school, more innovation will take place with the replacement of two boilers and the addition of a micro-turbine. The turbine will use excess heat from the boilers to produce electricity.

We congratulate SAU 16 and Exeter High School administrators for thinking outside the box when it comes to saving money across the district. It”s amazing what a bit of creativity and investment up-front can do to save hundreds of thousands of the dollars for years to come.

We wish we could say the same about the Seabrook School District, where voters recently rejected a $1.9 million proposal for energy-efficiency improvements to the elementary school. The warrant article failed with 56 opposing and 43 in favor.

Honeywell International project engineer Jim Lucy presented information about the proposal using loan money that was at a low to zero percent interest at the special school district meeting. The project would have also taken advantage of stimulus money.

School Board member Bruce Cassassa said the project would save the town $600,000 in interest charges. Other sources of funding included $577,394 in state building aid, along with a utility rebate of $144,555 from Unitil. Yes, $1.9 million is a considerable sum, but the investment would have paid dividends down the road.

Voters” rejection of this energy-efficiency plan is a missed opportunity.

Decisions on investing in and permitting means of alternative energy production become more common by the day.

In Portsmouth, the Historic District Commission is considering what could become only the second use of solar panels in the city”s historic district. The commission, while taking its time to weigh all considerations, has not closed its mind to a new technology on historic structures. As commissioner Joseph Almeida said “This decision and how we handle it is going to set the precedent for everyone else who wants to do this. I just want to make sure we do it right, that”s all.”

The same could be said for every alternative energy project. Let”s hope each one is made with a long-range view in mind.

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