by N.R. Mallery
Camels Hump Middle School is one of the greenest public schools in Vermont.
“The solar project here at Camels Hump is a step forward as we work to transform our energy system in Vermont and across this country,” Sanders told more than 350 students who joined him to celebrate the project’s completion on Nov. 4, 2011. He added “your school is doing something no other school is doing in Vermont. You are helping lead the way. What you are showing is what a community and a school can do to combat global warming, clean up our air, and move us toward energy independence and create jobs.”
The 507 solar panels will generate over 135,000 kWh/yr – currently estimated to produce enough electricity to cover about 25% of the school’s annual energy uAse and save approximately $25,000 each year in electricity costs, based on current prices. The Richmond middle school solar project is one of the biggest at any public school in New England. The panels were installed by ReKnew Energy Systems of White River Junction, Vt.
Mark Carbone, Principal, from Camels Hump Middle School told us that the “Solar array installation was funded with over $500,000 in grant money and cost the local taxpayers nothing. The array could produce enough power for the whole entire building when conditions are right. “Maybe on our best days this will happen”. More accurate projections are that we will save approximately another 25% on the bill. With all this our original $84,000 electric bill, before upgrades and the installation of the solar array, is projected to decline to around $40,000”.
CHMS is exemplary with other sustainable measures that they have also taken in an effort to reduce their carbon emissions:
A wood chip heater, installed in August of 1994, has decreased heating costs for the 87,000 s.f. building dramatically over the past fifteen years. Last year CHMS heated the building for approximately $.27/s.f. with 354 tons of wood chips. When compared to an oil based heating system it was projected that CHMS saved approximately $28,000 in heating costs.
In 2009, the school’s electrical system was completely upgraded with removal of four high line transformers, rewiring of the building, removal of 180+ light fixtures, and the upgrading of the remaining fixtures with more efficient ballasts and bulbs. Results from both projects have shown a 33% reduction in kilowatt usage. While this lighting retrofit had a price tag of $234,000, they received $15,000 from Efficiency Vermont. The initial investment will pay for itself in only 8 years. Because of this upgrade, the annual electric bill for CHMS has seen an approximate decrease of 25%.
An 800 s.f. school garden was built in conjunction with Richmond Elementary School, provides students the opportunity to grow a variety of vegetables for use in the school cafeterias and increase student understanding of where/how and at what costs various foods are produced. The schools are hoping to increase the garden’s integration with various curriculum. One project being discussed is the CHMS health classes growing and using the vegetables to prepare healthy, locally grown meals in the cooking portion of the health program.
Local Farms are used in the cafeteria including:
- Flack Family Farm: Certified Organic Delicata Squash & Butternut Squash
- Valley Dream Farm: Certified Organic Acorn Squash & Spaghetti Squash
- Taft Milk & Maple Farm 100% Pure Grade A Dark Amber Maple Syrup
- Jericho Settlers Farm(Organic Methods) Rainbow Carrots
- VYCC Garden Program Beets
This academic year, a Kiosk will be set up at CHMS for everyone to view, real time, the heating and electric usage of the school. “It is our hope that this kiosk will educate children and their families how to be informed energy consumers and users.” The solar power project will make the CHMS community aware of the impact of a non-petroleum based energy alternative.
Carbone said that “Being energy efficient is just one way we are trying to save taxpayers money at CHMS”.
Camels Hump now has the largest solar array at a public school in Vermont, but significant progress has been made at other schools throughout the state in making the transformation to renewable energy systems. For example, Vermont has 47 schools that heat with efficient biomass, instead of oil.
Senator Sanders is a member of the Senate energy and environment committees. He chairs the Green Jobs and the New Economy Subcommittee. He helped secure $274,000 from the Department of Energy to pay for half of the solar panels at the Richmond middle school. The state of Vermont contributed $250,000 and Green Mountain Power, as part of its Solar on Schools program, put $20,000 toward the pilot project.
Sanders also secured funding to help 10 other Vermont schools install photovoltaic solar systems.
We extend a huge applause for Camel’s Hump Middle School and look forward to this excellent example to be followed or surpassed by other schools in the near future.