Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Museums in our Region Support Solar and Sustainability

The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire is thrilled to be partnering with ReVision Energy and the town of Dover to house part of a 318-panel rooftop solar array at the museum and pool, which share a common electricity meter. Image: ©

Jessie Haas

The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire in Dover, along with the Dover Indoor Pool, installed roof-top solar in 2018. The 101.7kW array consists of 318 roof-mounted panels on the two buildings, with an expected production of around 120,000 kWh annually. This will offset 126,000 pounds of carbon pollution a year and is expected to meet about 30% of the combined needs of the facilities. That will rise to about 50% once the museum converts to LED lighting.

The Museum and city of Dover will purchase the energy produced on the two roofs at below-grid cost for five years, without an upfront payment. At the end of five years they will buy the panels. The installation was made possible by the Energize 360 program, a grassroots effort in New Hampshire to reduce energy use and transition to renewables. Through the program, 103 solar panels had been set aside to donate to nonprofits. The Children’s Museum was chosen as the recipient, because it serves all the participating towns, along with the rest of New Hampshire and receives over 100,000 visitors a year.

The solar array in Dover is partly installed on top of the roof of one of the town’s pools, while the other is partly installed on the roof of the connecting Children’s Museum of New Hampshire. Courtesy photo.

The Museum had already been exploring installing solar when Energize 360 approached it with the donation of 103 Tier 1 panels. The city of Dover got involved as the landlord—the Museum’s building is the former recreation building and is owned by Dover. According to Jane Bard, Museum president, with the seed of the 103 panels it made sense to go further and add rooftop solar to the adjacent city pool. The whole process took about six months working with ReVision Energy, Energize 360’s solar contractor.

The Museum building was already LEED Silver certified. There are plans to improve efficiency further. The next project is to convert all lighting to LEDs. The Museum is actively seeking funding to help make this conversion which will increase the contribution of the solar panels and “help us invest more in our public programs and education,” says Bard.

The Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury, VT converted to LED lighting in 2015, replacing 400 fixtures. Lower energy costs were immediate. So, too, was an improved aesthetic experience, as the new fixtures were less obtrusive. And LEDs are better for many exhibits, as they emit fewer infrared rays and no ultra-violet.

Fairbanks went on to invest in solar panels, starting with three in the parking lot, supported by a USDA grant. Now investments in solar parks, including the Solaflect Fairbanks Solar Park in St. Johnsbury, offset all the Museum’s energy use. The electricity bill in 2017 was $17,000. Today it is zero.

Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, VT has also switched to LED lighting and taken other steps toward sustainability, including installing automated controls for the HVAC system and adding a modern wood pellet boiler. The pellet heat system was designed and installed by Lyme Green Heat of Lyme, NH and is detailed in the October 2017 issue of Green Energy Times at Montshire also uses eco-friendly cleaning supplies. Finally, the museum store emphasizes sustainable products like reusable food wrap and stainless steel water bottles. Climate education is a large part of Montshire’s mission, and there are programs addressing it for children and adults. During Science Stories, a summer camp for middle schoolers, campers interview members of the community who are engaged in sustainability efforts (such as Vermod of Wilder, VT, which develops zero energy modular homes) in order to create a podcast to share their story.

Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT shifted to all LED lighting in 2013, with an annual savings of $28,000 a year.

Commercial LED lighting ranks 44th on the Drawdown list of global warming solutions, with the potential to reduce 5.04 gigatons of carbon production and save $1.09 trillion dollars by 2050. (The numbers are even larger for household LED adoption, which ranks at 33.) Lighting accounts for 15% of global electricity use, more than the output of all nuclear plants combined. Project Drawdown is the collective work started by Paul Hawken to identify and research the most
effective methods to reverse global warming.

Jessie Haas has written 40 books, mainly for children, and has lived in an off-grid cabin in Westminster West, VT since 1984,

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