Islesboro school celebrates solar installation

Oct 29, 2019
Courtesy of: Charles Hamm Jaycob Zollman flips the switch Oct. 9 to initiate Islesboro Central School's new solar array.

Islesboro — Islesboro Central School recently celebrated completion of its solar array. Installed by ReVision Energy, the array will provide the school with 40% of its electricity needs, according to Head of School Charles Hamm.

Staff, students and community members gathered for a ceremony Oct. 9, with fifth-grader Jaykob Zollman flipping the switch toward a more fuel-efficient school.

The curriculum at ICS includes a strong focus on best practices regarding sustainability. The new solar array adds a source of study for students, shrinks the school's carbon footprint, and takes advantage of clean, renewable energy.

“This solar project represents a massive step forward for the island community,” said Thomas Tutor, solar designer at ReVision Energy and an Islesboro native. “It has been an incredible experience to work with the school board, island contractors, students and teachers to help the island and school that have given me so much.”

Tutor, who grew up walking to school just up the road from where the solar array is sited, said he hopes that students see the solar installation as an example of what the future can be. “I hope this project sparks greater career interest for Islesboro Central School graduates in the growing and fulfilling field of clean energy,” he said.

The project, a 65.1 kilowatt grid-tied solar electric system, originated in 2017 with the donation of used solar equipment to create an educational array at the school. Members of the ReVision Energy team volunteered their labor to remove the donated solar panels from their original home and, with a few extra panels added, reinstalled them at the school. The result was a functional 2.5 kilowatt solar array on a work shed that inspired the school community to pursue a project with greater impact.

After discussion of location and system sizing with the school’s facilities committee, School Committee and community members, the new school project was nearly unanimously approved at a special town meeting in August 2018.

According to a press release from ReVision Energy of Liberty, the grid-tied solar array, consisting of 176 solar panels, each rated at 370 watts and designed to produce more than 80,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, is paired with four SolarEdge inverters. As a grid-tied system, any electricity produced by the solar array goes back to the grid, where it is then distributed to the school and neighboring households on the island, and the entirety of the value of the kilowatt hours sent back to the grid is then credited against the school’s utility bills.

Earthwork and trenching was conducted by Paul Grindle Excavation, electrical work was completed by Scott Sienkiewicz of Seaside Electrical Service, and Pendleton Yacht Yard provided machinery to move modules around the site during installation.

Funding for the project is part of a Power Purchase Agreement, or PPA, a financial structure that allows a nonprofit to install solar without using its own capital. Instead, an interested nonprofit, municipality or school is paired with a private solar investor who can take advantage of federal tax programs not available to the nonprofit host. The investor then offers to purchase and build a solar array at the nonprofit’s location and sells the solar power generated from that array to the nonprofit, often at discounted electric rates.

“ICS is proud to be taking advantage of solar voltaic technology,” Hamm said. “The decision to go solar fits in with our continued efforts to shrink our carbon footprint. The solar array will be providing 40% of our electrical needs and ample learning opportunities for our students.

"ReVision took care of many of the details and made the project much easier than I anticipated," he said. "We have also appreciated working with ReVision in joint efforts to send supplies to the hurricane-stricken Bahamas. Our school places a priority in the teaching, learning and practicing of responsible stewardship of our environment. Going with a solar array dovetails nicely with our sustainability graduation requirement.”

The installation at ICS grows Islesboro’s current solar capacity, which includes a 155-panel array atop the Islesboro Town Office and 127 panels at Pendleton Yacht Yard. The two arrays produce more than 100,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year and offset 98 tons of carbon annually, according to the press release from ReVision.

ReVision Energy's installation team, pictured at Islesboro Central School, are, from left, Noah Burditt, Master Electrician Andy Lesko, Antonio Hernandez and Project Manager Justin Milliken.
Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.