RICHMOND, Vt., Nov. 4 - U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today helped mark the opening of a solar energy project at the Camels Hump Middle School, one of the greenest public schools in Vermont.
"The solar project here at Camels Hump is a step forward as we work to transform our energy system in Vermont and across this country," Sanders told more than 350 students who joined him to celebrate the project's completion.
"Thank you for what you are doing. You are a model for the state," he added. "The reason that today is important is that your school is doing something no other school is doing in Vermont. You are helping lead the way."
The 507 solar panels will generate enough electricity to cover about 25 percent of the school's annual energy use and save $25,000 each year in electricity costs based on current prices. "What you are showing is what a community and a school can do to combat global warming, clean up our air, move us toward energy independence and create jobs," the senator said.
The Richmond middle school solar project is one of the biggest at any public school in New England. The panels were manufactured in California and installed by a Vermont company.
Also speaking at the ribbon-cutting ceremony today was Vermont Public Service Commissioner Liz Miller. "I want you all to go home tonight and tell your parents, ‘Wow, this is what we are doing,'" she told the students. Miller said she hopes that as more schools install arrays of solar panels, they will compete with each other about who is producing more electricity.
Camels Hump now has the largest solar array at a public school in Vermont, but significant progress has been made at other schools throughout the state in making the transformation to renewable energy systems. For example, Vermont has 47 schools that heat with efficient biomass, instead of oil.
Sanders is a member of the Senate energy and environment committees. He chairs the Green Jobs and the New Economy Subcommittee. He helped secure $274,000 from the Department of Energy to pay for half of the solar panels at the Richmond middle school. The state of Vermont contributed $250,000 and Green Mountain Power, as part of its Solar on Schools program, put $20,000 toward the pilot project.
Sanders also secured funding to help 10 other Vermont schools install photovoltaic solar systems.