Massachusetts Schools Install Solar Photovoltaic Electricity Generating System

Ameresco recently unveiled a solar kiosk at the Wilson Middle School in Natick, Mass., and similar installations are also underway at the Kennedy Middle School, Bennett-Hemenway Elementary School, the new Natick High School, Memorial Elementary School and the new Natick Community Senior Center. As part of the project’s first two phases, Natick is expected to offset the schools’ energy use by 46 percent by switching to clean, renewable energy. Additionally, funds in the amount of $74,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) were used to help defray the cost of the installation on the Kennedy Middle School roof.

“Natick’s solar energy investments make a significant contribution to Massachusetts’ clean energy revolution, which aims to reach Governor Patrick’s goal of installing 250 megawatts of solar energy by 2017,” said Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Mark Sylvia. “As one of the state’s 86 Green Communities, Natick continues to demonstrate that adopting renewable energy keeps more municipal energy dollars in the community, employs clean energy workers, and provides a scientific learning tool for Natick’s students.”

The capacity of the project’s first two phases is expected to generate approximately 734.6 kW. Upon completion of the third phase, the project will generate a total of 1.08 MW of power. The total roof area covered with solar panels will be approximately 417,000 square feet. As part of a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Ameresco, the Town of Natick will buy the power at a lower rate than it currently pays for electricity.

“With the start of a new year underway, this solar initiative represents an exciting opportunity with considerable economic and environmentally efficient benefits for the Town of Natick,” said Martha White, Town Administrator for the Town of Natick. “Our work with Ameresco has been a great public/private partnership. Through the installation of these solar panels, and at no cost to the Town, Natick will realize significant savings in our energy budget while improving the environment through greenhouse gas emission reductions. This project has the added benefit of educating our community on the importance of renewable energy in our future.”

As part of the project, Ameresco deployed several educational tools for the students, including a large-screen LCD television in the lobby of the schools that will display real-time performance and the associated environmental benefits of the solar PV panels. As part of the Data Acquisition System (DAS), the company also established a dedicated web page for an online display of the rooftop weather station data and solar PV electricity output for use by students and teachers. In addition, Ameresco will implement a summer internship in its Framingham office for a graduating senior from Natick High School who is interested in the energy efficiency and renewable energy fields.

“We commend the Town of Natick for its vision and leadership in embracing a renewable energy solution for its schools,” said David J. Anderson, Executive Vice President, Ameresco. “Not only are these projects expected to result in significant energy cost savings for the Town, but they also afford students the opportunity to experience clean energy and sustainability practices along with their environmental impact.”

With services ranging from budget-neutral energy infrastructure upgrades to energy supply management to invoice management, Ameresco offers several opportunities for saving energy in schools that can open up additional funding for educational programs. For K-12 schools and municipal facilities throughout North America, Ameresco has a proven track record of designing, building, operating and maintaining new energy facilities and upgrades with no up-front capital costs.

The three phases of solar panel installations in Natick are expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from New England fossil fuel-fired electric generation plants by 474 metric tons annually over the course of the 20-year contract, or the annual equivalent of 93 cars taken off the road.