Solar panels at Four Rivers Charter Public School to offset electricity usage by 25 percent

  • Four Rivers Charter Public School on Colrain Road in Greenfield has installed solar panels on the roof of its barn.

  • Four Rivers Charter Public School on Colrain Road in Greenfield has installed solar panels on the roof of its barn. The panels are expected to produce enough energy to offset about 25 percent of the school’s annual electricity usage. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 3/19/2021 2:58:01 PM

GREENFIELD — The electricity generated at Four Rivers Charter Public School on Colrain Road will be greener in the coming years, thanks to the recent solar panel installation on the school’s barn.

“Sustainability and energy conservation are important to the school,” said Amy Wales, director of Finance and Operations at Four Rivers.

Wales said the school is always looking for ways to save on energy costs and use more renewable energy. Over the last several years, she said, the school has replaced all of its lights with more efficient, LED lights, and improved insulation in a few buildings.

Although the process for getting solar installed really kicked off about a year ago, Wales said it has been a goal for the last three or four years.

“We have had an excellent site for it,” she said.

In a press release, Wales wrote that Four Rivers anticipates a payback from the solar panels in around 10 years. She expects the panels will produce enough energy to offset about 25 percent of the school’s annual electricity usage.

Wales explained that the school went out to bid for the project, which is how she connected with Solar Store of Greenfield, a solar energy contractor on Fiske Avenue that stocks and installs solar energy technologies for homes and businesses.

The entire installation process, from approval to connecting with Eversource, took about two months, according to Claire Chang of Solar Store of Greenfield. The panels went live at the end of January.

“(The project) totally fits with our mission, also,” Chang said. “Not only to provide renewable energy for homes and businesses but also to have a showcase, so students will learn about renewable energy and how easy it is; how it functions; that it’s not dangerous (and) could easily be incorporated into their daily lives.”

The system will replace natural gas and oil used for producing electricity, according to the press release.

“If you have a clearly south-facing roof, like the school did, that’s able to generate electricity that’s generated from the sun, you have what’s called a renewable source, which does not require extracting or burning fossil fuels in order to generate electricity,” Chang said. “The sun comes up and sets every day.”

And even though it isn’t necessarily sunny every day, most days are sunny, she said.

“We can generate, even here in Massachusetts, a lot of electricity from the sun,” Chang said. “Massachusetts and New England needs to contribute to the move toward 100 percent renewable energy in order to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.”

The panels on the barn roof at Four Rivers are expected to generate 40,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, which offsets an estimated greenhouse gas equivalent of 71,242 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.

“Unfortunately, 70 percent of the population, of the commonwealth, is not eligible for solar on their housing … either because they don’t own it (they’re tenants), they have shading issues … or a number of other regulatory or financial considerations make it not possible,” Chang said. “So we need to make sure there’s solar-generated electricity, or renewable energy, for the entire population of Massachusetts.”

Some of that, she said, will come from offshore wind, of which Massachusetts has a “huge resource.”

“It’s a must that everyone participate in the revolution as soon as they can, financially or otherwise,” she said.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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