Editor’s Note: Ongoing data on the array, including a real time data displaying amounts of energy being harnessed, can be found on the EMS Solar Page.
Dozens of volunteers — students, faculty, staff, community members, parents and grandparents — joined a “solar barn raising” on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020 to install 357 solar panels atop the school’s upper building in a little less than four and a half hours.
The solar array 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.
It was the culmination of nearly two years of planning and consultation, made possible by a partnership with Secure Futures Solar of Staunton. Read more below about how it works and education opportunities.
“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.”
How it works
EMS received the 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.
Gott Electric, LLC completed the electrical grid for the project in June of 2020 to prepare for the installation. 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.
In addition to the solar panels, Secure Futures at no extra cost to the school, will provide lesson plans and materials created by NEED (National Energy Education Development) for hands-on instruction and learning the importance of clean energy.