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Squam Lakes Natural Science Center Goes Solar

Phase one has recently begun of the 139kW solar installation at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. Approximately 20% of the project’s solar panels (totaling 24.82kW) are being installed on the roof of the Early Childhood Education Center which is home of the Science Center’s Blue Heron School. (Courtesy photo)

In 2016, when Squam Lakes Natural Science Center updated its Strategic Plan, an ambitious “50 by 30” pledge was made. The pledge was to achieve 50% of its energy consumption from renewable sources by 2030. The Science Center has taken several steps in that direction over the last five years but is ready to make a huge leap to surpassing its goal with a new solar array currently under construction.

The full project is a 139kW solar photovoltaic array (380-plus panels), which will be constructed in two phases. The completed project is sized to generate enough power to offset nearly all of the Science Center’s electric needs. The PV project could save approximately $26,000 in electricity costs annually and over 250,000 pounds of CO₂  emissions. It will be paired with educational interpretation to teach visitors about renewable energy and the climate crisis.

“We know that climate change is a worldwide catastrophe,” said Science Center Executive Director Iain MacLeod. “We hope that our initiative to go solar will help educate the public about clean renewable energy and to encourage others to take action.”

Phase one of the $375,000 project commenced in November 2021. Approximately 20% of the project’s solar panels (totaling 24.82kW) are being installed on the roof of the Early Childhood Education Center, home of the Science Center’s Blue Heron School, a nature-based Montessori early learning center for students ages 3 to 6.

The second phase is ground-mounted arrays to be placed around the main parking lots. Construction will begin when funding is in place – we hope later this winter. The Science Center just received a $75,000 challenge grant from an anonymous donor for the project and is looking to match that grant very soon. Potential donors are encouraged to contact Iain MacLeod at iain.macleod@nhnature.org. The Science Center is grateful to funding already received from Hypertherm Hope Foundation – Green Grants, The Samuel P. Hunt Foundation, and Trustee Emily Preston and her brother Andrew Preston for funding received to date.

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center worked closely with Ted Vansant of New England Commercial Solar Services, Mauchly Electric and Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative (PAREI) on the design and installation of the project.

“Solar energy is an abundant source of emission-free power. We are proud to work with the Science Center to help them meet their carbon emission reduction goals,” said Sandra Jones, PAREI Director. “Installing solar PV panels is one of the best steps an organization or family can take to combat climate change.”

Learn more about the Science Center at nhnature.org; PAREI at plymouthenergy.org; and New England Commercial Solar Services at necsolarservices.com.

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