Lower School’s Green Team Pitches Solar

At a meeting of the Buildings & Grounds Committee, fourth and fifth grade members of Shore’s Green Team presented research to support a proposal to bring solar energy to rooftops on campus.

The Committee, comprising faculty and administrators as well as members of the Board of Trustees, heard the Green Team members detail the potential ecological and financial benefits of going solar, and listened to their proposal to install a solar array on the roof of the Center for Creativity.

Dubbing themselves “Shore Students Seeking Solar Energy,” the presenters explained that approximately 50% of the energy used in Massachusetts comes from non-renewable coal, and they emphasized that 97% of scientists agree that global warming is directly linked to the burning of fossil fuels such as coal.

The Green Team is led by fourth and fifth grade science and health teacher Colleen Parenteau. The information in their presentation was based in part on fields trips to the Beverly High School Solar Field as well as in-school presentations by Shore parent and renewables expert Bob Knowles and by local architect Chris Doktor of Olson Lewis+, who designed Shore’s Center for Creativity.

“Why is solar power a better option? Solar is a renewable energy source,” the students argued, “so you can use it over and over. Solar power does not add greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide or methane to the atmosphere.”

After explaining how solar panels produce energy, the students quizzed the Committee about how much they thought the panels would cost the school. The surprising answer: just $3.50 per watt produced. “The cost per kilowatt has decreased dramatically since the 1980s,” the students explained, “and scientists predict it will continue to fall as more people invest in this renewable energy source.”

The Green Team concluded with their proposal that Shore consider a leased solar array. Investigating the energy savings achieved by a nearby school that leased an array, students found that it was possible to save $12,000 per year even with a small installation. That school, they said, “only pays $.08 per kilowatt for the energy generated through the solar panels; it normally pays National Grid $.13 - $.14 per kilowatt.”

The students added, “They have also installed a computer for the students to monitor that shows all the information about the solar panels. It’s pretty cool to watch how much energy they’re generating and how much money they’re saving.”

The Buildings & Grounds Committee members were impressed with the team’s presentation, and were eager to learn more. Shore’s Chief Financial Officer Bobbi Whiting asked, “What happens to the solar panels when we have a winter like we had this year, with feet and feet of snow on top of the panels?”

“The snow will clean the solar panels,” they students answered, “and it can melt the snow if there’s just one day of sun. When they’re generating energy, they get so hot that they actually melt the snow. Since the solar panels are angled, the snow is able to fall off.”

Committee member and Shore trustee Josh Webber asked, “What do you think we would do with the $12,000 in savings you said the panels would generate?”

“You could give it to the area of greatest need - like if you wanted to purchase new computers for the school, or hire a new teacher,” the students suggested.