Array of sunshine

College, local firm introduce new solar array

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By Joe Cardello
The Essex Reporter

A grouping of 150kW net-metered solar panels can be seen just off the to side of the Lime Kiln Bridge. PHOTO | BRIAN MACDONALD

A grouping of 150kW net-metered solar panels can be seen just off the to side of the Lime Kiln Bridge.
PHOTO | BRIAN MACDONALD

St. Michael’s College continued to show its green streak last week when it unveiled its new solar panels on Lime Kiln road.

The grouping of net-metered solar panels can be seen just off the to side of the Lime Kiln Bridge. They were constructed between December and February.

“It was a tough winter for continuous construction activity,” said Chad Farrell, principal of Encore Redevelopment, a Burlington-based project development company that specializes in underutilized property and community-scale renewable energy systems.

The project, a St. Michael’s partnership with Encore, is part of the college’s wider focus in recent years on green energy, which has included cutting-edge geothermal-well technology to heat and cool new buildings.

The new solar array features a “data-acquisition system” in the college’s Cheray Science Hall, which allows tracking of real-time performance of the array. College leaders say such data is of keen interest to environmental science students and faculty as a mechanism to collect data on the array’s electrical output for possible research projects.

According to Farrell, the solar array will produce approximately 270,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity on an annual basis. The energy will be distributed into Green Mountain Power’s energy grid, and credits will show up on the college’s electric bills.

The project is located on a filled former limestone quarry that offered limited development potential for the college, Farrell said.

Encore and the college worked to structure a creative financing agreement to make the project a reality.

Farrell, along with Michael New, the college’s vice president for human resources, and Neal Robinson, the college’s vice president for finance, said that the financing agreement offers St. Michael’s a compelling return on its initial investment, as well as the ability for the college to assume ownership of the array at the end of either seven or 15 years.

Other potential academic uses for the college, according to faculty leaders, include a solar unit in an environmental chemistry course, a meteorology course offered by the Physics Department, or a project for a computer science major on data-collection programs.