MANCHESTER -- On Monday, April 22 -- Earth Day -- Burr and Burton Academy Headmaster Mark Tashjian announced that the academy had reached an agreement with the Carthusian Monks at the Charterhouse of the Transfiguration on Equinox Mountain to purchase their excess hydroelectric power. The academy is now being completely run on this source of electricity, he said.
Talks on this venture began last fall when Monsignor Stephen Rossetti, Director and Chairman of the Equinox Foundation as well as business liaison to the Carthusian Monks, was put in contact with Tashjian concerning this proposal. The monks were looking for someone with whom they could share this resource, and they thought that the academy seemed like the right choice.
"Yes we are neighbors, but we also wanted to support the education of young people," said Rossetti of why the academy was chosen. "When you add it all up, it is a very worthy cause."
This project will add to the environmentally-beneficial aspects already in place at the academy, where they have recently replaced all of their lighting with CFL bulbs, and produce zero carbon footprint, according to Tashjian. Their Mountain Campus is also powered by renewable energy - specifically two solar tracking arrays.
The energy is generated by a small dam on Mount Equinox, and from there the power goes to Green Mountain Power’s electric grid. From there, the power goes to the academy and the buildings used by the monks; however, since the monks only need to power a handful of buildings, they have plenty leftover to power the academy.
Tashjian explained that the academy takes part in many projects that he refers to as Triple Bottom Line Projects, but he considers this to be a Triple Bottom Line Plus One project.
He outlined the benefits of this venture in three ways, plus one:
Environmentally -- by using greener energy, educationally -- continuing to use the electricity they need to teach while continuing to "practice what they preach," and economically -- cutting 10 percent from their annual electric bill, which Tashjian estimates will result in a saving of about $15,000 annually. He considers the Plus One to be the economic benefit to the monks, from selling their excess energy.
However, Rossetti expressed that the partnership is about much more than the money they are making.
"It’s not just about selling excess power. It is an educational opportunity for the kids to come up and look at it and share our resources," he said. "[The Prior] had told me that it was a God-given resource and that it was to be used wisely."
"Everyone is happy, everyone wins, and everyone is better off," he added.
When asked if Burr and Burton was the only school in the state running on complete renewable energy, he said he was not sure, but he was unaware of any others with this kind of special arrangement.
When Cathy Hilgendorf from the Vermont Agency of Education was reached for a comment on the topic, she said that the state does not keep track of the electrical power sources of the schools in the state; however, she did mention that there are many other schools whose heating systems were derived from other natural resources such as solar power and woodchips, but had no information on their sources of electricity.
The uniqueness of the project does not end at the possibility of Burr and Burton being the only school with this arrangement; the monks at the Charterhouse of the Configuration on Equinox Mountain are the only order of Carthusian Monks in the entire country. The charterhouse was founded in the 1950s and holds a small number of monks.
Both parties have expressed their gratitude towards the other for this opportunity, as well as their excitement for a continuing relationship. "We look forward to a long term partnership," said Rossetti.
"It is really a remarkable deal," said Tashjian.