ARLINGTON >> A solar project has recently been completed on the roof Fisher Elementary School, which will lead to a projected 12 percent reduction in electric bills at both Fisher and Arlington Memorial High School.
The project was installed by Solar Pro, an Arlington-based company owned by Jim and Karen Lee, and financed by Hand and Sun Solar, owned by Jim Hand, which is also local. Karen Lee said the project was a 150 kilowatt array made up of 520 panels, the maximum allowed by the state of Vermont for this type of project.
Hand and Solar Pro have worked together on other projects in the past, including an array at the Dorset School and another at Riley Rink, which is generating energy credits that are benefitting Manchester Elementary Middle School. The Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union did not have to pay anything out of pocket for this installation. Hand and Sun is leasing the space for the solar panels from the school, and is contracted to sell them energy credits generated by the array, leading to the 12 percent savings on the school's end. The schools will have the option to purchase the panels outright after six or seven years, said Lee.
"They're smart businesspeople, and they're really interested in sustainability," said Lee.
Lee said the project took four weeks to complete, and was done entirely by local contractors. Fisher was chosen because it has a more suitable roof for panels than the high school. She praised the project as a good example of how communities could come together to support sustainability. "Some of the big solar projects that have been less than popular in the eyes of the people have been out-of-state investors," she said.
The Arlington School board voted in November of last year to have panels installed on the roof of the school in November after a presentation by Hand and Jim Lee. At their Feb. 24 meeting, the contract for purchasing the credits was agreed upon after review by the school's lawyers. Board member K. John Smith said that he thought the solar panels could represent a good learning opportunity for Fisher students.
Solar Pro was founded in 2008, and has installed over 100 systems in Bennington County, in addition to a few in Rutland and Windham Counties. Besides the Arlington, Dorset, and Riley Rink projects, they also installed an array at the Second Congregational Church in Bennington. Most of their projects are smaller scale, for individual homeowners. For more information, you can visit their website at www.hotonsolar.com.
When speaking before the Manchester School Board in May, Hand said that the Riley Rink and Arlington projects were among the last that were approved by the state before Green Mountain Power said they would not be allowing the addition of any more projects of that size to their system for the time being. "What's going to happen in 2017 is, if it's not on a roof, and if it's of a bigger size than 15 kW, they're going to start taking away pennies per kW, so investors like us are not going to be building," he said, "We're lucky we're under this arrangement right now."
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.