Tuesday January 29, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- The Public Service Board has issued a Certificate of Public Good for the Hilltop Montessori School to install 55 kilowatt photovoltaic system near the school's buildings at 120 Summit Circle in Brattleboro.

The school hopes to finalize its financing install the solar system this year.

Hilltop moved into its new buildings in the fall of 2009 and there were always plans to have a solar system on the property, said Seth Harter, a parent at the school who worked on the committee to get the permits and get the system installed.

After construction on the approximately $4.3 million project was complete, and the students and staff moved in, there was not enough money left over to install the solar system.

Harter said the parent group came together to help the school move ahead with the project.

"They did not have the money when the buildings were finished and last year a group of parents formed a committee to get it going," he said. "The system makes a lot of sense for us and we are trying to get the financing together."

The solar project is expected to cost about $250,000.

The new buildings sit high on a hillside off of Guilford Street and Harter said the system has the potential of generating most of the energy for the school.

Depending on how the system is financed Harter said investors will put up the money and then sell the school power for seven to 10 years at a fixed rate.

The investors will then possibly sell the system back to the school, after which all future energy costs will be free.

Harter said the project has been a little complicated because there is an easement on the property and the parent group is working with the school's board and with the solar installation company to keep things moving forward.

Hilltop has been working with Integrated Solar on the project.

Along with saving the school money, and reducing the school's carbon output, Harter said the school is looking forward to using the solar power cells to enhance science lessons.

"There are a lot of educational opportunities and everyone here is excited about it," he said. "It will be a nice addition to the school."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.