By N.R. Mallery
Hilltop Montessori School in Brattleboro, Vermont, is an independent school for children age 18 months to 8th grade. “The installation of solar will allow the school to further the its mission,” the head of the school, Tamara Mount, stated, “teaching students about conservation and renewable energy — taking care of our planet, which is an important part of Montessori educational philosophy.”
On Dec. 31, 2013, Hilltop Montessori School activated 192 roof-mounted PVs, which will generate approximately 60,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. The 11.4kW system has 192 Hanwha 250W PV Modules and four Fronius Isolated String Inverters. It will supply the school with 100% of the power it needs.
The solar system is monitored with a Fronius Web-based monitoring system. The school is awaiting a grant from Solar4RSchools for a computer kiosk for the lobby, as well as other educational materials. “Integrated Solar shepherded the project through to fruition. They conducted feasibility studies, introduced the school to investors, and installed the system. It was a turn-key product,” said Seth Harter, one of the parent volunteers who helped the school explore the possibility of solar power. “It’s been wonderful working with them and a fantastic opportunity for the school.”
The solar array was installed at no cost to Hilltop. Wisdom and Power LLC invested the capital to install the array and in return, Hilltop will pay the firm 90% of the current kWh rate for service from Green Mountain Power. After seven years, the school may choose to purchase the panels at fair market value, or continue to pay the investor.
Hilltop moved to its current location five years ago, after renting space at the Austine School for the Deaf. On the newly purchased property, they built a new building designed to be as energy efficient as possible, and with the forethought of installing solar panels. They are currently build an ‘arts barn,’ and a multi-purpose building, both built with energy efficiency in mind. Both buildings have SIPS panels manufactured locally at Foard Panels in West Chesterfield, NH.
“Our school culture incorporates other sustainable measures, like composting, recycling and gardening,” said Development Director Amelia Farnum. “The students take responsibility for all of these – students as young as three learn which bin is for recycling, which is for composting and which is for trash. Older children have “jobs” of collecting compost and recycling.” The school is situated on 43 acres, including a large garden.
They have also done some routine weatherization. This includes an energy assessment of the school done by the Vermont Superintendents Association and an energy audit done by Farnum Insulators.
Fulfilling their mission step by step is becoming a reality for Hilltop Montessori School. The children who are fortunate enough to attend the school are learning to walk a sustainable path that will lead to a clean responsible future!