TRACKER SOLAR PANELS located on private property in Lincoln are providing power for the Lincoln Community School. Independent photo/Trent Campbell
LINCOLN — The number of Five Town Area elementary schools that can boast of being powered by solar energy has just doubled — to two.
Twelve solar trackers on Kim Smith’s property in Lincoln began generating 50 kilowatt hours of electricity last week. The solar panels will generate close to 100 percent of the electricity that the recently renovated Lincoln Community School needs.
“I am really proud of Lincoln for moving in this direction,” said Rep. Mike Fisher, D-Lincoln, who helped spearhead the project. “I’ve been working for, boy, a long time. There have been some setbacks, but there is a core group of people who have seen the wisdom in it.”
Fisher said the Lincoln project was inspired in part by Starksboro, which in 2010 installed 25 solar trackers that power Robinson Elementary School, as well as part of the town office.
“I have been very impressed with their leadership,” said Fisher, who hopes that other towns will follow Lincoln’s and Starksboro’s lead.
“It’s important for towns to push ahead and make our own energy,” he said.
AllEarth Renewables, a wind and solar installation company based in Williston, executed the project.
“It’s always gratifying to make these projects happen,” said Caleb Elder, a member of the AllEarth Renewables team who was heavily involved in the Lincoln project. “There are always a lot of people in volunteer roles who have to roll up their sleeves and try to understand how (the technical details) work.”
Though Elder said the Lincoln community was overwhelmingly supportive of the project, it did have some setbacks. Most problematic was a physical space issue: The school, which was undergoing renovations, did not have room on its land that was appropriate for solar panels.
That’s when a Lincoln resident stepped in.
“Ken Smith and his son Oakley very generously said, ‘Let’s take a look and see if there’s a place on our property that’s appropriate,’” Elder said.
Last Wednesday, the solar trackers were up and running, culminating more than a year’s work by Fisher, Elder, the Lincoln school, selectboard and community members.
“We were continually impressed with how Lincoln school, the community stepped forward to see the project to completion,” Elder said. “This was a very successful project that enjoyed a lot of support.”