ROCKPORT — Working through the foggy mornings and the intense heat of August, workers employed by ReVision Energy, solar equipment supplier and installer based in Liberty, have been preparing Camden Hills Regional High School’s roofs for the installation of solar panels. On Aug. 25, the workers started to mount the 588 solar panels that are to cover the school’s south facing roofs.
The solar project, which was suggested and put into action by the Camden Hills Regional High School Windplanners, was approved by the Five Town CSD Board of Directors finance and facilities subcommittees June 17. A written proposal called a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) marks the agreement between the school and ReVision Energy for the 150 kilowatt solar electric system. ReVision’s PPA says that for the first six years, Camden Hills will continue to pay the market price for energy, 10 cebnts per kWh, to ReVision, with no other upfront cost. After the sixth year, Camden Hills will have the opportunity to buy the full system.
The solar panels have a productive lifetime of 40 or more years, and output an estimated 205,500 kWh annually. After buying the panel system after the sixth year, the school would be making energy for free, saving a total of about $20,000 per year.
As Camden Hills sees it, this project is earth-friendly, budget-effective, and a learning tool for the community. Solar panels will reduce the school’s carbon emission, and help move toward becoming a carbon neutral school. The PPA makes the solar panels a financially effective way to save money over the years by creating the school’s own energy. In addition, the solar project is to provide an alternative point of view of energy, and provide a learning experience to both the student body as well as the community.
Keith Rose, the Five Towns School District Facilities Director, spoke about the school’s goals in going through with the solar panel installation at a recent press release.
“It was important to all working on the policy that it not just seek to reduce costs, but that it also addressed the source, efficiency, renewables and most of all, student involvement,” he said. “This solar project does all that.”
Green energy is a focus of multiple groups at Camden Hills. Not only is there a club (Windplanners) dedicated to the renewable energy possibilities and conservation within the school, but energy conservation is a large part of the global science and advanced placement environmental science classes. The school, with leadership from the Windplanners, has changed all lights to LED lights, saving about $200,000 annually in energy costs with the solar panels in working order.
The Windplanner’s next goal is to finance for an energy monitoring system, which would not only help the school conserve energy and raise awareness about energy consumption, but allow for a greater level of energy education in the classroom.
“I've been involved with the Windplanners since inception because this has always been a group of students who weren't afraid to take ownership of things in their power,” said Rose. “Sometimes it does 'take a village'. It starts with a forward thinking community and a school board supportive of sustainable student and staff efforts.”
That is the major goal of installing solar panels on the school, to create a sense of involvement and awareness in sustainable energy sources.
As a student, moving our school to be a “green,” carbon-neutral high school in Maine is something that gives us pride. We, as a community, and as students, already feel a sense of that with our wind turbine. We are taught in class that green energy is the energy source of the future, and to be attending a school as innovative and forward-thinking as Camden Hills is something very special.
Willow Grinnell is a senior at Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport. Zoe Zwecker contributed to this article.