Solar array adds green power to BC High campus

By 
Jonathan Rodriguez, Special to the Reporter
Aug. 12, 2010

BC High Solar Panels: BC High's Brian Maher with the school's new solar panels.BC High Solar Panels: BC High's Brian Maher with the school's new solar panels.Boston College High School is taking a giant step in the green direction this summer with the installation of nearly 870 solar panels on the roofs of its buildings. The project, set to be completed in early September, will make BC High home to the largest single-building solar array in Boston.

The expansive array covering 25,629 square feet of rooftop on the campus will produce up to 40 percent of the school’s daily electric power with the panels generating almost 200 kilowatts at a given moment. The environmental benefits of such a system will be like planting nearly 24, 000 trees and conserving around 14, 000 barrels of oil.

What may be equally as impressive as the environmental benefits is the fact that BC High is having them installed for free. Thanks to a power purchase agreement with Borrego Solar, the company will lease the school’s rooftops for the next 20 years. BC High will then buy all of the energy absorbed by the panels, which should cover the estimated 40 percent of the school’s electricity needs. BC High benefits from this because Borrego will charge them a fixed discounted rate for the next two decades. This should save BC High approximately $500,000 while Borrego will receive all of the rebates offered by Massachusetts’s solar initiative, which awards residents and businesses for installing solar panels.

“This project is a win-win situation,” says Brian Maher, director of capital planning and technology at BC High. “Not only do we get to save money and reduce our carbon footprint, but we view this as a valuable educational tool to our current and future students as well.”

The incorporation of green technology and education is not new to BC High. The panels are the latest highlight of their pledge to reduce the school’s carbon footprint. Over the past five years the school has upgraded to more efficient boilers and has also changed all of its lighting systems to include things such as energy efficient bulbs and motion sensors in classrooms, bathrooms, and offices. They also hope to one day convert their left-over cooking oil into bio-diesel fuel that can run their lawn mowers.

A web portal will also be implemented to show the real time production rates of the panels. On top of this, BC High will also stress the social significance of harnessing solar energy.

“As Jesuit educators, we teach our students that we all have a responsibility to and for each other in the world,” says President William Kemeza. “Anything that we can do to be good stewards of our environment fits right into that worldview.”

Editor's Note: The City of Boston's interactive Solar Map is a good tool for tracking all renewable energy projects in the city. Also, property owners can input their address and calculate the solar potential of their rooftop.