Heralded as the Green Mountain State, Vermont’s mountain ranges aren’t the only way the state keeps its green title. In 2010, SolarOne worked with Browns River Middle School, located in Jericho, VT in order to establish a solar lighting system for the school's parking lot that would check all the boxes. Despite concerns over adequate sunlight, potential glare and the inevitable Vermont winter’s, Browns River Middle School chose to go solar. Read more about their journey going solar and how SolarOne worked with their concerns and needs to provide an effective solar lighting system.
It all started with an idea hatched from a rather unexpected source.
A group of seventh grade students recognized the school parking lot’s dire need for improvement: many of the lights were not working and the wiring was rotting. Not only were there safety concerns, costs of restoring the grid-tied lights would be significant. Along with faculty members and the Vermont Energy Education Program (VEEP), the students proposed a new lighting system that would feature exclusively solar lighting. Bringing their idea to the Jericho Energy Task Force in May of 2010, the students garnered the support of the task force and moved on to the Chittenden East School Board. In January of 2011, the school board gave full permission to the student’s plans with one clause: the new lights would exclusively use LED lights. Donna Leban of Light Space Design in Burlington, VT was hired as lighting designer.
When considering solar lighting systems, often the same questions and concerns arise. In an environment such as Vermont, where temperatures dip well into the negatives in the winter, reach high into the 90s in the summer, and wind, rain, sleet and snow are all too common, the durability and performance of a solar lighting system is sometimes called into question.
SolarOne’s high performance and durable solar lighting systems are constructed to withstand harsh environments. Field tested and proven sound, a battery (designed to function at temperatures as low as -40° F) provides enough backup power to operate for over nine days with no sun. The SO-Bright® controllers use a technique called Maximum Power Tracking to maximize the amount of power the systems can collect, delivering about 30% more power in winter than a conventional controller. For those snowy Vermont days, the controller also includes “Snow Cover Protection,” a feature that overrides the system’s photo control to ensure that lights remain off during the day and resume at night even if the panel is covered with snow. The tilt and orientation of the panels ensures that snow slides off, without intervention.
Donna Leban of Light Space Design in Burlington, VT was able to assist in taking on the specific lighting concerns. Compared to the original globe style lighting, dark sky friendly Hadco RX140 Luminaires reduced light trespass and eliminated light pollution. Donna also took on the responsibility of balancing safe light levels with the coordination of facilities crews that would be responsible for logistics like snow removal.
At the completion of the project, students estimated that the decision to go solar made a difference of $100,000 in initial costs when compared to conventional lighting installation, in addition to saving future energy costs. “The change out will save about 8,500 kwh annually, equivalent to avoiding over 6 metric tons of CO2 from going into the atmosphere, which is the approximate annual electricity use of a household.” As predicted by the Vermont Natural Resources Council.
The partnership with Browns River Middle School and SolarOne is a testament to the ever growing commitment our future generations have for sustainable energy.