Environmental Protection

School District to Install World's First Ultra-efficient Solar Hot Air System

Sanborn Regional School District in Kingston, N.H., has signed the world's first power purchase agreement for ultra-efficient solar hot air, which will reduce the fuel oil heating bills of Sanborn Regional High School by at least $17,000 annually with no capital investment required by the school district. 

The 10-year contract, which is incentivized with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds, enables the Sanborn Regional School District to receive 1,400-mmBTUs of thermal energy, which is equivalent to paying $2.50 per gallon of fuel oil. The 5-year-old high school's energy savings will fluctuate parallel to fuel oil market prices, which have averaged between $3 and $4 gallon within the last 10 years. The environment also benefits from a displacement of 13,500 gallons of fuel oil and a reduction of 48 tons of CO2 emissions annually.

The project features four separate Lubi™ wall-mounted solar hot air collectors by Enerconcept Technologies of Magog, Quebec. The collectors, which aesthetically appear as walls of windows, will cover 8,000-square feet of the school's southern walls and use a black metal absorber. The collectors will provide a majority of the school's heated make-up air requirements and partially space heat the 12,000-square-foot gym. The Lubi uses 1 x 3-foot translucent glazing panels with a patented perforation design resulting in the world's most efficient solar device, according to Canadian Standards Association (CSA-International) certification tests.  

"We're excited about this project because it won't detract from our school's appearance, offers a long-term alternative energy savings strategy and helps stabilize the tremendous costs of heating a 220,000-square-foot facility," said Carol Coppola, the district's business administrator.

Facilitating the project is a limited joint-partnership between Enerconcept, PPA provider and financier, Revolution Energy, Dover, N.H., and Shift Energy, a Biddeford, Maine-based manufacturer's representative that will manage a November commencement of the wall-mounted solar collectors' installation and connection to the school's HVAC system. The partnership's solar air heating PPA strategy is now attracting other school administrators across the northeast U.S. looking for energy-saving alternatives without a capital investment, according to Clay Mitchell, principal, Revolution Energy. 
Enerconcept provides the equipment and engineering design, and Shift Energy manages the installation. Revolution Energy arranges the conventional bank loan, owns the equipment, and receives a 30-percent tax grant and a first-year 100-percent equipment depreciation from the ARRA, which is passed onto a project's financing institution. Revolution Energy is also responsible for equipment maintenance over the 10-year contract, however the Lubi requires no maintenance, according to Christian Vachon, P.Eng., president, Enerconcept Technologies. 

Coppola is also excited about the educational value of the project.  Revolution Energy is inviting Sanborn vocational technology, environmental and science classes to participate in the installation. Revolution will also provide Web-based learning modules, personal presentations from company principals, and teacher curriculum development help on renewable energy for integrated middle and high school level classroom experiences.

When the 10-year contract expires, the school has an option to purchase the system at a fair market value well below the new system's cost.  Fuel oil prices are expected to climb in the future, so throughout the 30-year lifecycle of the solar collector, the school district could conceivably save more than $1.5 million in energy, displace 400,000-gallons of fuel oil and eliminate 1,440-tons of CO2 emissions from the environment, according to Mitchell.

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