Site work has already begun on the solar array, which will be located on Route 175 across from the school’s football field. Once the project is completed this fall, solar panels will supply enough renewable energy to power several dorms - plus the Davis Center, the school’s new 35,000 square-foot math and science building. The Davis Center is slated to open in Winter 2021.
“I’m happy to say that this 460-kilowatt-capacity array will do more than offset the electrical demand of the new academic building,” says science teacher and Director of Sustainability Maggie Mumford. “It will also probably cover Hagerman Auditorium and Alfond Library and maybe a couple of the northside dorms. It’s a significant amount of electricity that will be generated.”
While Holderness School owns the property on which the new photovoltaic array will sit, the array itself will be owned and operated by Barrington Power
, a renewable solar energy provider based in Barrington, N.H. “They are leasing the land from us, building the array, and then we will buy back the electricity generated at a discounted rate,” Mumford says. “We will know that it’s renewable energy that is powering a good chunk of the school.”
This new solar array is one of several major sustainability projects at Holderness School over the last decade. In 2008 and 2009, the school conducted sustainability audits of all buildings on campus, and implemented its recommendations while renovating Weld Dining Hall and the Hoit and Rathbun dorms. Two additional dorms constructed since then, Woodward and Pichette, both attained LEED Gold Certification through the U.S. Green Building Council.
In 2011, the school constructed a woodchip-burning biomass plant, which provides heat and hot water across campus. And in 2014, the school installed 360 solar panels as part of the construction of the outdoor hockey rink. Those solar panels, which generate up to 95,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, are used to directly power most of the rink’s energy needs.
While these environmental sustainability projects will help Holderness School save energy, they also provide valuable teaching opportunities for students. In a world upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, Maggie says, it’s even more important that students recognize the looming global consequences of climate change, and the intersection of sustainability and environmental justice.
“I think it will be really important for our students to realize that environmental sustainability is more than mitigating climate change so we can still have snow to ski on,” Maggie says. “They need to understand that it is a global issue.”