The Power of the Sun: Park’s Journey to Solar Energy

in Winter 2023-24 by

By embracing clean energy in partnership with Select Energy, the School sets an example for other educational institutions looking to navigate the path toward a greener future.

This winter, Park is making a significant step forward in our commitment to campus sustainability as we embrace solar energy. The possibility of integrating solar panels into Park’s infrastructure has been in discussion for some years, and we are excited that it’s time to take the School’s sustainable practices to the next level. Preparations have been underway since 2021, with roof replacements on the West and Main Building to ensure that the roofs are in good condition for the twenty years that the solar panels are expected to be operational. With flat rooftops across our buildings, Park presented an ideal canvas for solar installations, opening up possibilities for harnessing clean, renewable energy.

Park contracted with Solect Energy as the solar installer for the project. Solect Energy, a well-established player in the field, is Massachusetts’s largest commercial solar installer. Engineers from Solect Energy conducted a thorough assessment of the school’s roofs to determine the optimal number of panels that could be installed: 574 solar panels spanning 131,800 square feet. The installation process commenced at the end of January and will be tied into our electrical system over March break.

The solar panel installation is projected to provide 35% of the school’s annual electrical consumption, a substantial reduction in electricity that the School needs to obtain from the grid. Beyond the environmental benefits, the installation will serve as an educational tool for students. Students will be able to witness the impact of renewable energy by way of a screen in the second-floor lobby providing real-time data on the current and historical energy production from the panels. There will also be conversions that share the equivalent number of trees planted and CO2 emissions saved, giving students and our community different ways to think about the impact of the solar array.

Grade 6 Science teacher Jay Duhaime is excited about how classrooms will reference the data gathered from the solar panels. A large part of science is having students witness something for themselves. Having a screen that displays data gathered from the solar panels shows students the sustainability goals of Park and the immediate impact this installation will have. The Lower Division sees the sun’s power growing things in the greenhouse and garden” Jay notes. “Now, in Upper Division, with the help of solar panels, we can see how the sun’s energy can be used to power life in a sustainable and clean way, making them better stewards of the environment. I’m looking forward to seeing what new projects we can launch with the solar panel data.”

All of this work was made possible at no cost to the School through a mutually beneficial partnership with Solect Energy. The School is effectively renting the roof to Solect Energy in exchange for clean, reduced-price energy. As owners of the installed panels, Solect Energy will manage ongoing maintenance and take advantage of incentives available for renewable energy projects. The long-term commitment spans two decades, during which the School will benefit from clean energy production and contribute to the broader goal of reducing Park’s carbon footprint.

This venture into solar energy is a part of Park’s holistic approach to sustainability, bringing together environmental consciousness, educational engagement, and strategic decision-making. By embracing clean energy in partnership with Solect Energy, the School sets an example for other educational institutions looking to navigate the path toward a greener future. 

Park Trustees and Buildings & Grounds Co-chairs, Nicole Danforth and Rich Quincy, are thrilled that this project reflects Park’s continuing commitment to supporting an environmentally sustainable future. They note, “Park’s Board eagerly supports the larger plan to foster sustainability on campus as our community strives to find a balance between operations, facilities, and resources with the natural world.”

The School’s commitment to sustainability is one focus of the recent work done by the Board of Trustees and Administration to update the School’s Campus Plan. The Campus Plan was first developed in 2018 to anticipate the changes in use of the buildings and campus over a 30 year horizon. In the six years since the Campus Plan was developed, fueled by our community’s generous support of The SPARK Campaign, many projects have been completed. Now, as we celebrate all that has been accomplished, we seek to clarify what lies ahead. Led by the Buildings and Grounds Committee, the School has partnered with its long-term architect, Utile Inc., to update The Campus Plan. Check out the updated version here.