Dec. 6, 2016 — Not far from NMH’s Hayward Farm’s iconic red barn and grazing pastures there’s another kind of farm — a solar one. The school recently started leasing 10 acres on the edge of campus to Borrego Solar, which is building a solar array (often called a “solar farm”). The land north of Peller Family Field now hosts rows of photovoltaic panels. Together, they are expected to generate two megawatts of non-polluting power for the local grid.
Power produced by this solar array, which is expected to go online in April, will be fed into the power grid used throughout the local area. Some of that power eventually may light NMH buildings and operate equipment across the campus.
The land-lease plan is “one way NMH can help increase the production of green energy for the area power grid,” while also providing budget relief for the school, said Associate Head of School Charlie Tierney.
This is the largest, but not the first, solar array at NMH. Solar panels owned and operated directly by the school are already generating power on the Norton House roof and near the farm and plant and property buildings.
Leasing the land is part of the school’s overall commitment — detailed in the latest campus master plan — to “leverage the productive landscape of the campus,” said Tierney. Other efforts include having local farmers work some NMH land as well as adhering to a sustainable logging protocol to manage surrounding campus forest land. The campus power plant has run on recycled cooking oil for nearly two years now. And the new Gilder Center for Integrative Math and Science Education will be constructed to that solar panels can easily be added as funding allows.
The new array is part of a statewide effort to make Massachusetts less dependent on fossil fuel. NMH Director of Plant Facilities Rick Couture says that all electricity producers who sell to Massachusetts customers must have a minimum of 11 percent of the power they sell come from renewable sources. The commonwealth has set a goal of installing 1,600 megawatts of solar capacity by 2020, according to the American Council on Renewable Energy.