ROCHESTER, N.H. — SunRaise Investments has helped the Rochester schools lead the way to sustainability in education with solar energy projects at several local schools.

SunRaise, a Portsmouth-based company founded by University of New Hampshire graduates Bobby Lambert and Pat Jackson in 2014, is a developer, financier, owner and operator of commercial solar energy projects across the country.

In the fall of 2015, the Rochester School Department partnered with SunRaise for an 86-kilowatt solar energy project installation on the roof of its East Rochester Elementary School, as the school was in the midst of updating the building. A year later, four additional solar projects were installed on the rooftops of Spaulding High School, Richard W. Creteau Technical Center, McClelland Elementary School and Rochester Middle School.

Bobby Lambert, SunRaise co-founder and vice president of finance, said the department is benefiting from a set energy rate that began lower than retail market cost with an annual escalation of 2 percent through its power purchase agreement and 20-year contract.

“We finance the system and own it, with no money down, and then sell them the power generated at a discounted rate,” Lambert said.

He and SunRaise Vice President of Project Management Matt Doubleday said Rochester is a good example of what can be done for a school district. Doubleday said because schools are public entities that focus on budgets, this allows them to budget concisely and project future costs.

SunRaise estimates the Rochester School Department will save up to $500,000 over the life of its agreement. Lambert and Doubleday said the many panels, at a typical size of 4 feet by 8 feet, were tiled upon the roofs of the schools to generate power instantaneously. The schools use energy generated by the solar projects throughout the daytime first, and any unused energy generated is banked for another day. While at night the schools use grid energy, they said.

According to Doubleday and Lambert, the solar arrays are expected to generate approximately 30 percent of the school’s electricity use, and are saving the equivalent of nearly 600,000 pounds of coal burned or 63,000 gallons of oil consumed each year. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports the average residential customer in New Hampshire consumes 7,452 kilowatt-hours annually. Doubleday said Rochester’s five solar projects are expected to generate roughly 800,000 kilowatt hours annually, enough electricity to power 106 New Hampshire homes each year.

“When producing power, it’s not just about the amount of power you’re producing, it’s about the value of power produced,” Lambert said, adding New Hampshire and New England have the most expensive rates in the nation.

Lambert likens the future of solar energy to the way the personal computer evolved. “The way we produce and consume electricity is changing for the better as products and consumption become more distributed,” he said.

Besides helping fulfill their mission to transition the region into a low-carbon economy, the Rochester schools’ mission came with another perk, too. “(The) cool thing about working with schools is that we have the opportunity to go into the classrooms,” Lambert said.

SunRaise visited the schools and taught multiple classes in Rochester on such topics as the financing behind the solar energy projects and how solar power works. Each school was gifted with monitoring LCD screens that display daily generation of solar electricity in real-time and show the students, faculty and parents what the daily and accumulated environmental benefits are from the solar array on their rooftops.

“It feels good to be involved in a company that has our role in that really important transition in the grid,” Lambert said.


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Information from: Foster’s Daily Democrat, http://www.fosters.com