EMS Solar System Largest in Harrisonburg School

July 7, 2020 / Andrea Wenger
Eastern Mennonite University's solar array atop Hartzler Library
Eastern Mennonite University's solar array atop Hartzler Library

This is a joint release of Eastern Mennonite School and Secure Futures Solar

Eastern Mennonite School has signed an agreement with Secure Futures Solar of Staunton to install and operate solar panels on its Harrisonburg campus.Together, solar arrays will generate a total capacity of 136 kilowatts of power, more than any solar power system installed at a K-12 school in Harrisonburg.

The solar panels at EMS will offset nearly a third of the total electricity used by the school’s facilities while generating enough clean energy to run the equivalent of 15 average homes and avoid more than 141 tons of carbon dioxide pollution per year. The system is projected to be completed by the fall of 2020.

In addition to the planned solar panels, Secure Futures at no extra cost to the school, provides lesson plans and materials created by NEED (National Energy Education Development) for hands-on instruction and learning the importance of clean energy.

“We are thrilled to be able to get this project up and running,” says Paul Leaman, head of school. “Young people need to see and experience the power and economics of renewable energies so they can become change agents away from the pollutants and nonrenewable fossil fuels.”

Eastern Mennonite School will receive solar energy equipment at no upfront capital cost through a 20-year Solar Self Generation Agreement with Secure Futures. Over that term, the company will operate and maintain the solar energy system, providing services and support for EMS to generate electricity at a cost lower than typically available from its utility power provider, Harrisonburg Electric Commission.

“Eastern Mennonite School is stepping up as the leader among K-12 schools in Harrisonburg,” said Anthony Smith, CEO and Founder of Secure Futures. “Their intention to save money, help the environment, integrate rooftop solar lessons into the classroom, and engage with the community demonstrates how schools can harness solar power to support their mission and save resources “ While EMS is installing more solar power than any school in the city, Harrisonburg overall has been a leader on going solar within Virginia.

“Harrisonburg was the first city in Virginia to surpass 1% solar capacity (from net metering) on their local grid,” said Jeff Heie, a clean energy activist in Harrisonburg for the last decade. “This milestone occurred in December of 2019.”

Mennonite-affiliated organizations have been at the forefront in installing solar panels in the city.

In 2010, Eastern Mennonite University made history by installing 104 kilowatts worth of solar panels on the school’s Hartzler Library, at the time, the largest solar installation in Virginia.

Then, in 2016, the Mennonite-run Gift and Thrift store became the first solar customer in Virginia to install its solar system through a “solar barn raising.” Adapting the rural tradition of cooperative construction of farm buildings to installing a solar array, three dozen community volunteers came together with experienced solar installers to put up 113 kilowatts of solar panels at the store’s location on Mount Clinton Pike. Both projects were developed and financed by Secure Futures.

Next Steps at EMS
EMS will install its panels in mid August. Preparation work for the installation was completed in June. Gott Electric, LLC completed the electrical grid for the project. Andy Hershberger, EMHS class of ’03, is director of Virginia operations for Gott, which excels at residential and commercial electrical services in the Maryland, Virginia and the DC area. Karissa Sauder (pictured), EMHS class of ‘17, was an intern with Gott Electric this summer who helped on the project.

A volunteer “barn raising” type of installation for the solar modules will take place in August or September 2020 to install the solar panels. Twenty-five volunteers will install 350 panels in one work day. The solar barn raising concept is promoted by Secure Futures as a way to help make solar more affordable for non-profit organizations that perform important service to their communities. Read more.

EMS will document its solar story at easternmennonite.org/solar

About Secure Futures, LLC
As a market and policy leader, Secure Futures builds, owns, manages and funds affordable Resilient Solar Solutions® for hospitals, schools and businesses. Headquartered in Staunton, Va., the company combines state-of–the-art solar technology with an innovative business model to make commercial scale solar readily affordable in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, helping customers to realize the economic, environmental, and community benefits of solar energy. In 2017, Secure Futures became a Certified B Corporation®, having met the exacting standards for social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability established by the nonprofit B Lab®. For more information: www.securefutures.solar

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