SES Projects: The Willow School

Location: Gladstone, NJ
Sector: Educational
System Sizes:
12.6 kilowatts (Schoolhouse)
25.52 kilowatts (Art Barn)
2.2 kilowatts (Ground Mount Tracker)
System Installed: 2007
Modules: AstroPower + SunPower
Inverter: SMA
Total Annual Energy Output: 49,250 kilowatt-hours (kWh)

To monitor system performance and environmental benefits, click below:

Willow School Art Barn and Ground Mount Tracker

Willow School-Schoolhouse

Background

The Willow School, in Gladstone, New Jersey, was founded by Mark and Gretchen Biedron in 2001. The Willow School’s Virtues Program, designed to foster ethical relationships between people, ultimately gave birth to the school’s commitment to cultivating equitable relationships between humans and our natural world.

Becoming a Partner on an Educational and Environmental Mission

Solar electricity proved to be a perfect solution for the school’s environmental and curricular goals. “For us, choosing a company to work with was all about communication and the type of relationship we’d be able to build going forward,” says Mark Biedron, “A lot of companies were calling but the people at SES stood out. They communicated effectively and followed-up well, especially David Buckner and Chris Moustakis. They were very receptive to coming out to the school and talking to our community about solar energy, which was important.”

The solar panels at the Willow School have served as a launchpad for important discussions with students about the consequences of burning fossil fuels versus reliance on renewable energy sources. “We have been able to use these projects as a framework for our curriculum. When we talk about electricity, the workings of our solar panels have become an integral part of the syllabus,” said Biedron.

“We have no regrets and would not change a thing about what we have done here. Everything SES promised was delivered on time and according to plan. What we were quoted is what the systems cost; they never tried to ‘nickel and dime’ us. Just the opposite, SES did all of the work to get us considerable rebates from the state. For the first system we received a check for $60,000 and on the second we got $150,000 back, which was really great,” said Biedron.

“For us as educators, however, the most valuable part of all of this is that the students see what is going on around them and have an opportunity to ask questions about what these changes mean and why they are important. That piece goes way beyond energy savings, because these children are going to be out there making decisions for our society in twenty years. Hopefully, learning at an early age what works and what doesn’t, with respect to using our natural resources, this will enable them to make better decisions than the ones we’ve made up to this point,” Biedron concluded.

The Result

Currently, the Willow School’s classroom buildings draw energy from PV systems engineered by Solar Energy Systems, LLC. In 2003, the Willow School’s first classroom building earned the United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED Gold Certification, making it the first independent school building and the second school building of any type, public or private, to earn such nationwide recognition for its environmental impact. The second classroom building, which also features an SES-designed system, earned LEED Platinum Certification in 2007, making the structure the first building in New Jersey and only the third school building in the country to achieve the USGBC’s highest level of certification. The school plans to add two more buildings to its award-winning campus before 2011 and according to Biedron is “eager to continue working with SES as we expand our solar energy plan.”

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