FAIR HAVEN — The Slate Valley Unified Union School District is partnering with MHG Solar, which is re-purposing slate quarry land in Pawlet and Poultney for its latest solar projects.
“When you’re active in the solar industry in Vermont, there isn’t a lot of available ag(ricultural) land,” Giese said. “You end up looking for industrial land, reusable land, you start looking for creative projects that helps Vermont reach its lofty energy goals.”
Giese and co-founder Thomas Hand found there was usable land sitting just next door in Rutland County, where excavation had been happening for more than a century. “Our projects are located in an industrial site on old slate tailings piles,” Giese said. “Pretty much not visible to the public, about as invisible as they can get.”
With the completion of the Pawlet project, the Poultney project is slated to begin in two months, erecting 2,000 panel arrays on the properties operated by Newmont Slate, Greenstone Slate and New England Slate.
The arrays will generate more than 1 million kilowatt hours in the first year, Geise said in a previous interview, and Superintendent Brooke Olsen Farrell said they’ll provide for 80% of the energy needs for the district.
The partnership will provide the school district with substantial cost savings and create new opportunities for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics opportunities for students, according to a statement released by the school district.
“They (MHG) provide a set of resources,” O’Meara said in an interview. “We’re going to spend some time collaborating with science, math and maybe even art, too. It’ll be trans-disciplinary work.”
O’Meara said the district plans to sit down with educators next week to explore how to implement engineering and technology in a place-based educational setting.
“Pete put me in touch with Arizona State and another (school) based in Nevada so they could walk me through the shared curriculum,” O’Meara said. “We just started to explore that.”
“Participation in these two unique solar projects not only provides a tie to the community and creatively reuses industrial lands, but it also generates meaningful savings for the schools,” Cheryl Scarzello, director of finance with the district, said in the statement. “In total, the district expects to save more than $15,000 per year and more than $450,000 in electricity costs over the term of the solar projects.”
The district will be the beneficiary of approximately 1,200,000 kilowatts of electricity from the solar arrays every year, an amount that could also power between 150 and 170 homes.
“We are excited about the opportunity to partner with MHG Solar as it has environmental, financial and, most importantly, educational benefits for our students within the district,” Olsen-Farrell said. “It appears to be a win-win for everyone involved.”
No further definitive plans for other renewable energy investments have been planned yet, but Olsen-Farrell said the district is looking at other energy sources, such as biomass.
The district joins Castleton University and Rutland City Public Schools in taking advantage of local solar projects, and in an email Mill River Unified Union School District board member Liz Filskov said Mill River has also “gone solar.”
Rutland City Public Schools partnered with Johnson Controls, of Milwaukee, and said earlier this year that they plan to put solar-powered roof racks over the RHS parking lot and on most of its schools.