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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 already utilizes composting toilets and heats a major portion of the campus using super-efficient wood burning boilers and locally sourced cordwood. Dealing with their electric use was the next major step. Now with solar energy they are making a huge impact on their carbon footprint.
In 2019, the Science Center started to explore options for a major solar array and contacted Ted Vansant of New England Commercial Solar Services. Plans were formulated and a scope of work outline allowed the Science Center to start fund-raising. The following foundations and businesses supported the project: Cogswell Benevolent Trust, Samuel P. Hunt Foundation, Hypertherm Hope Foundation, and New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Fraxinus, Mainstay Technologies, and RDC Squam Environmental Preservation Funds. Twenty-four individual donors and one anonymous foundation also made financial contributions.
The phase one project (totaling 24.82kW) was installed at the end of 2021 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. This system uses all black panels and combined with a thoughtful layout on the roof results in an array that blends well into the roof.
Phase 2 was completed in April 2023 and consists of 240 485-watt panels arranged in rows between and adjacent to the two large parking areas on the campus. “It was important that these solar arrays did not overwhelm the visitor experience, and we are thrilled with the result. With careful planning and implementation Barrington Power built these arrays to fit into the existing landscape while also maximizing the amount of solar that could be placed in this limited space.” said Science Center Executive Director Iain MacLeod.
This ground-mounted system is 116.4 kW and is estimated to produce about 130,000 kWh annually.
Combined the two projects are 141kW and will produce 100% of estimated annual kWh usage. 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.”
Squam Lakes Natural Science Center worked closely with Ted Vansant and Barrington Power on the design and installation of the project. “Although we use energy conservation where we can, we have many systems throughout the campus that use a lot of energy – filtration pumps and circulators for animal pools, exhibit lighting, chillers for aquariums, etc., so using our own energy is huge,” said MacLeod.
“Solar energy is a perfect fit for the science center, not only are these two systems saving them a lot of money, but they are educating about the benefits of using solar energy every day just by having these two systems front and center as part of their operations.” said Vansant. “We are lucky to have been able to work with the amazing team at the science center to help show visitors that we have solutions available right now that help to mitigate climate change.”
The mission of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is to advance understanding of ecology by exploring New Hampshire’s natural world. Through spectacular live animal exhibits, natural science education programs, guided Squam Lake Cruises, public gardens, and a nature-based Montessori early learning center, the Science Center has educated audiences of all ages since 1966 about the importance of our natural world. Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is Sensory Inclusive Certified by KultureCity.
Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is located on Route 113 in Holderness, an easy drive from exit 24 off I-93. Public trails are open daily from May 1 through November 1 with programming throughout the year. For further information about the Science Center, call 603-968-7194 or visit www.nhnature.org.
The ground-mount solar array which consisted of phase two of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center’s plan was completed in April 2023. It consists of 240 485-watt panels arranged in rows between and adjacent to the two large parking areas. (Jack Bingham, Barrington Power)