EXETER — The sun was reflecting off the 465 solar panels located at the entrance to Exeter High School as officials explained the ground-breaking energy project to a crowd gathered for its unveiling on Tuesday.
“Today would be a great day to check the output, I”m sure it”s huge,” said Clay Mitchell of Revolution Energy, who stood in front of a row of the panels as he discussed the science behind the project his company designed and implemented.
The solar array — which generates 100 kilowatt hours of energy and offsets about 5 percent of Exeter High School”s energy needs — has been producing energy since September.
In addition to the array, the district also installed a microturbine at the Seacoast School of Technology and replaced the building”s old oil boilers with high efficiency natural gas boilers.
“What you see is the solar array, which is only one of three parts,” Mitchell said, explaining that the energy initiatives combined will eventually save the district more than $200,000 per year.
The project was a partnership between the school district, Revolution Energy, the Department of Energy, Unitil and the Green Launching Pad — an alternative energy technology commercialization initiative started by Governor John Lynch and the University of New Hampshire last year.
“I think this is the perfect model,” said Ross Gittell of the Green Launching Pad. “It creates jobs, savings for the school district, protects the environment and is educating the next generation of alternative energy experts. We should all be very proud.”
In addition to financial support from the Green Launching Pad, Revolution Energy funded the project — with the help of Provident Bank — with a combination of traditional bank loans and tax incentives. The company will pay back loans with the money SAU 16 pays for electricity produced by the district”s new energy saving measures.
SAU 16 Chief Financial Officer Nathan Lunney said all the projects combined would have cost the district close to $1.5 million up front. He estimates the projects will produce energy savings of $20,000 the first year, with increased savings in the future.
Last winter, SST students began mounting panels on the school”s roof. Installation was halted when officials realized a ground mount would be more efficient and cut down on liabilities.
While the move delayed the project, Lunney said he is pleased with the decision because panels are more visible at the entrance to the school”s Blue Hawk Drive campus.
“Some 1,700 students and 500 staff members will come in every day — I can”t count the number of parents and grandparents that will come here, and every one of them will see one of the largest solar projects in the state,” he said.
Officials noted the solar array — which until earlier this summer was the largest in the state — puts both Revolution Energy and Exeter at the forefront of alternative energy projects happening around the state.
“We”re interested in setting an example of what can be aspired to in the future,” Lunney said.
Now that installation is complete, Mitchell said he will focus on a 10-year education component his company committed to at the start of the project. Revolution Energy employees will link up with teachers to help create lesson plans and show students the importance of the technology behind alternative energy sources.
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