In the fall of 2010, the Willard Elementary School began getting about 10% of its electricity directly from the sunshine falling on solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof.
The solar PV system reduces the amount of fossil fuel-generated electricity that CMLP needs to purchase to supply the Willard School's needs. Greenhouse gas emissions due to electricity used by the school have declined accordingly.
The Willard School was chosen as the site of Concord's first Town-owned solar PV system because its electricity needs had already been significantly reduced as a result of its green design. The Willard School is estimated to use 40% less energy than a school built to meet current building codes. Because reducing greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency measures is so cost-effective, it makes sense to reduce electricity use in a building first, and then to generate as much of the remaining needs as possible using renewable energy technologies such as solar photovoltaic panels.
Electricity produced by solar PV systems, such as the one installed on the Willard School, has some extra benefits for CMLP customers. electricity consumption in Concord peaks during the summer months. The extra electricity that the Town purchases in order to meet needs during the peak periods is expensive and is generated less efficiently than electricity used for base load needs. Thus, reductions in peak electricity purchases are particularly effective in stabilizing rates for Concord customers and curtailing pollution and energy waste. Because the amount of electricity produced by a solar photovoltaic system is also at its peak during the sunny summer months, the Willard's solar PV system reduces the amount of expensive, inefficiently-produced electricity that CMLP must buy to meet the Town's needs.
The Town used a variety of means to pay for the PV system. Through the Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant program administered by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, the Town won $150,000 in federal stimulus monies that was put towards the cost of the system. CMLP contributed funding as well. An allocation from the Town's Alfred Sawyer Trust provided the remaining financial support for the project.