Photo by Karen Monroe for Middleburg Photo

The Hill School of Middleburg formally dedicated its recently installed solar field on May 22. The entire student body, faculty and guests attended a ceremony that also included representatives of the families donating the funds to install a system that has been functional for the entire 2018-19 school year. 

“There are a lot of reasons this solar field is a great addition to the school,” Head of School Treavor Lord said in his opening remarks, made from high on a hill overlooking the campus. “It helps the school financially, environmentally and educationally … most importantly, educationally.” 

The solar field’s design incorporates the system into the landscape by situating the solar panels on a south-facing sloping meadow and the roof of the school gymnasium. It will potentially offset one-third of electricity use on campus, resulting in utility bill savings, while also aligning Hill’s desire for clean energy with financial savings. 

The solar field was installed last summer by Charlottesville-based Sigora Solar and has already been utilized to enhance Hill’s place-based educational philosophy. 

Seventh- and eighth-grade science and math programs have used the field as a catalyst to create a 3-D model of the system to analyze its generation of power and benefits, evaluate solar business models and expand understanding of renewable energy. 

Several students from those classes spoke about the project at the dedication, including eighth-grader Anya Turner-Veselka, who said, “I studied in-depth the solar impact on the environment. It’s extremely efficient. One percent of solar energy could power the entire world. It’s been fascinating to be on a campus with these solar panels. It shows the students an environmental alternative as well as helping in mathematical and scientific studies.” 

Said seventh-grader Chester Fannon, “One thing I really enjoyed was working with my friends and seeing how the school is reducing the carbon imprint.” 

So far, the solar field has produced the equivalent of planting 3,250 trees or saving more than 120,000 pounds of CO2 emissions. 

Four families, including one anonymously, contributed to fund the solar field, and representatives of three of those families spoke at the dedication. All are Hill graduates.  

“I’m proud that Hill is a responsible institution that is aware of its footprint,” donor Jacqueline Mars told the students. “I hope that your generation will do a better job of taking care of our precious planet. I’m confident you will … I hope this solar field will provide inspiration, not only for you students, but for generations to come. I have a lot of faith in you all that this will make a difference in your lives.” 

Redmond Manierre, whose late grandparents, Theodore and Mary Roessel, allocated funds in a bequest to Hill, said, “They believed in the fundamental educational mission of the school. Not only will these panels reduce costs, they’ll be the standard for building its future.” 

Said donor Michael Morency, “We know the burning of fossil fuels has led to global climate change, the most dire threat we face in the future and I’m proud of the school for addressing this problem. It started with the gym, and if it works, we’ll add to it. We felt it was the right thing to do for the future of our children, our grandchildren and the community.” 

The solar field took about two weeks to install and resulted in minimal excavation and impact to the school’s grounds. 

“It’s a great project, especially because the students have become involved, as well,” said Sigora representative Sean Barkley, who attended the dedication. “They’ve done projects, cost analysis. It’s really been a great thing for them to see up close.” 

In his remarks, Lord said the genesis of the project came out of a discussion nearly five years ago at a school dinner held at nearby Boxwood Vineyards between Head of School Emeritus Tom Northrup and Brandon Bloom, a Hill parent involved in the solar energy business. 

“They were having a conversation and Tom said, ‘Wouldn’t it be a great idea to have a solar field here?’” Lord said. “That led to a series of meetings and people doing a lot of research. And what you see here today is the result.” 


Reach Len Shapiro at badgerlen@aol.com 

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