Guest Author, David Herman, engineer and father of Peri K.’19

In a recent blog post, we outlined the Harrisburg Academy’s certification as an ENERGY STAR Building from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The road to ENERGY STAR certification began with the adoption of our recent strategic plan, Challenge 2013. The plan sets forth a goal to “green Harrisburg Academy by incorporating energy efficiency and environmental sustainability into programs and operations.” The goal statement begs the question, “What about solar energy (or other renewable energy sources)?”

As part of our commitment to environmental sustainability, we evaluated the possibility of installing a solar energy (photovoltaic) plant to generate electricity for the Academy through a power purchase agreement. Through the power purchase agreement, a third party would install the solar energy plant and recoup their capital investment over the period of the agreement. Over the course of this evaluation, we determined that although it was not prudent to move to solar energy at that time, we realized the importance of getting “solar ready”. What does it mean for the Harrisburg Academy to get “solar ready”?

Getting “solar ready” involves identifying and taking proactive steps so that when a future opportunity presents to move to solar power or another renewable form of energy the Harrisburg Academy will be best positioned to make that transition.

Reduce electrical load and consumption: First, the most sustainable energy is energy not used. One of the key steps to getting “solar ready” is to reduce electricity load and consumption. Last summer marked the culmination of a series of capital projects to reduce the Harrisburg Academy’s electricity load and consumption. These projects included replacing inefficient lighting and electric heating units with more efficient units.

Improve the physical plant: On first look, the building’s roofs are ideally suited for photovoltaic panels. However, after evaluation, several roofs will require replacement in the near term and certainly before installation of solar panels. The replacement of these roofs is included in the Academy’s capital plan.

Evaluate power purchasing options: Electricity pricing has been volatile since electricity rate caps expired December 31, 2009. The Academy purchases electricity through a buying group that is able to best leverage the fluctuations in the marketplace. One of the advantages of the power purchase agreement is to decrease exposure to the volatility of electricity prices and improve budgeting. However, before entering into a long-term agreement, the marketplace needs to be more stable to ensure the rate locked in through the power purchase agreement is competitive.

We are committed to the environmental sustainability of the Harrisburg Academy and will continue to evaluate options and alternatives going forward.