If you have been by Seacoast Science Center in the past few weeks you’ve probably noticed our “new look.” What used to be a broad expanse of fiberglass roofing shingles has now been covered by an extensive array of photovoltaic panels! Thanks to an energy retrofit project funded and coordinated by the NH Department of Administrative Services and NH Division of Parks and Recreation, SSC has been included in an effort to improve the energy efficiency of state buildings throughout the seacoast. Through this program, SSC has undergone a comprehensive review of our energy usage and received a series of practical investments designed to save energy, reduce costs, and ultimately roll back our carbon footprint.
To date we have upgraded thermostats, replaced lighting throughout the building with high efficiency LEDs, installed technologically advanced aquarium pumps, and replaced the drafty, weather worn windows on the east side of the building most exposed to the ocean.
The solar panels are not only the most visible upgrade, they will have the most profound impact on SSC’s energy usage. Contractors have completed installation of 159, 400W photovoltaic panels covering around 3,800 sq.ft. of the southerly facing roof. Since we must operate our aquarium pumps and filters continually, light large public spaces and provide limited air conditioning (as anyone who visited on a hot, humid day can attest), our electric demand has historically been around 60,000 kWh per year, or the equivalent of 8 typical NH homes.
Prior to the NH Division of Parks and Recreation’s current retrofit project, SSC began taking meaningful steps toward energy conservation by removing aging metal halide fixtures and replacing them with contemporary LED light fixtures. This alone resulted in a reduction of SSC’s energy consumption by 17% to around 49,000 kHhr per year in 2018. The installation of the photovoltaic panels promises even more significant energy savings. Calculations indicate that the solar array will meet 40% of SSC’s annual electric demand with renewable solar energy and have an overall investment payback period of about 13 years to the NH Division of Parks and Recreation.
The solar installation also includes an energy production data portal accessible to SSC’s exhibits team. Although the installation of this equipment has been delayed, we anticipate being able to offer our visitors a real-time glimpse of the Center’s energy demand and energy production relative to time of day, seasons, and weather conditions. We will be sure to let you know when the renewable energy exhibit comes on line.