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By Lucian McCarty
October 09, 2009 2:00 AM
Exeter High School will be trading its Blue Hawk blue for “green.”
By Dec. 31, Exeter High School will be home to the largest collection of solar panels in the state, with 394 15-square-foot panels adorning the roof of the regional high school. School officials are in the process of signing contracts with Revolution Energy and four other partners, working together as New Hampshire Seacoast Energy Partnership.
According to Michael Behrmann, a principal of Revolution Energy, this energy initiative at EHS will surpass the size of the current largest solar array in New Hampshire, which is located at Public Service of New Hampshire”s headquarters in Manchester. Behrmann said EHS panels will create 100 kilowatts of electricity surpassing Stoneyfield Farms in Londonderry, which puts out 48 to 50 kilowatts, and PSNH at 51 kilowatts.
The project has been largely orchestrated by Nathan Lunney, SAU 16″s chief financial officer, who has been quietly researching the project for past 18 months.
“I”ve wanted this to happen because I”ve been looking for creative ways to save the district money,” said Lunney, “but to be able to do this, and know it”s the right thing, is just outstanding.”
Under the agreement yet to be reached with the energy partners, the Exeter Region Cooperative School District is estimated to have to pay about $150,000 a year for 10 years. At the end of the contract the school district will own the equipment.
“That is one of the things that stands out about this project,” said Behrmann. “From day one, the school will be saving money.”
Revolution Energy predicts the solar panels, which will be installed within the next two months, will supply 7 to 10 percent of the school”s energy, while Lunney predicts more along the lines of 3 to 5 percent. According to Lunney”s predictions, the first year of savings will be about $170,000. He said he hopes the cost savings will increase exponentially at the end of 10 years. This means EHS could save $20,000 or more a year on its energy bill over the next decade.
“I would prefer to be surprised by savings. I like to keep my estimates low,” said Lunney. “If the output is more than the 3 or 5 percent, the savings will be more than $170,000.”
Members of the Exeter Region Cooperative School Board have been overwhelmingly supportive of the project. “It”s great that we are going green, and saving money in the process,” said Dave Miller, the School Board member put in charge of the contractual process.
Initially, the panels will provide between 83 and 87 kilowatts of electricity. Revolution Energy is evaluating other In the real world, it seems throughout history, you need both to do well – money and partners and funding possibilities, and hopes the end result will be 100 kilowatts.
The external fixtures to the high school are part of an overhaul of some of SAU 16″s energy and heating infrastructure. In addition to the solar panels at EHS, two boilers are being replaced at the Tuck Learning Center and SAU 16 offices on Linden Street (old Exeter High School building) with more energy efficient models. At the Seacoast School of Technology a micro-turbine will be installed.
“It is basically like a small jet engine,” said Clay Mitchell, also a principal at Revolution Energy. Mitchell said the turbine will heat the building more efficiently, while at the same time using excess heat to produce electricity. “You get more heat and electricity more efficiently,” he said. The micro-turbine will also act as a back-up generator for the SAU central office.
The turbine will be the first of its kind in New Hampshire, although the technology has been around for some time, according to Mitchell, and is even used in some schools around the nation.
The entire energy project was negotiated as a package deal with the New Hampshire Seacoast Energy Partnership, which will be bearing the brunt of the initial investment.
“These are going to give us power for the next 20, 30, 40 years, so I hope people feel good about this project,” said Lunney, “because I want to do more like this in the future.”