Solar project to produce lots of energy at Millhopper Montessori

New solar panels on the roof of Millhopper Montessori School are seen behind children playing on playground equipment Thursday afternoon. Millhopper Montessori is the first private school in the area to install solar panels.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 8:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 11:16 p.m.

Here comes the sun to the Millhopper Montessori School.

The school will celebrate the dedication of its solar panel project today at 11 a.m. It's the first solar electric installation by a private school in the area, according to school officials.

Christina Miller, school president, said the project was originally slated for 2012 as part of the GRU solar feed-in tariff program. The feed-in tariff program allows businesses to contract to generate electricity and sell it to GRU.

Miller said a teacher originally pitched the idea after a classroom presentation.

"It actually turned out well, because our roof was needing replacement," she said.

The school will receive a rebate from the federal government for the construction of the project, which cost roughly $200,000, including the roof repair.

More than 210 panels make up the 50,000-watt solar panel array, which will produce about 75,000 kWh each year, or $24,000 in energy.

Solar Impact of Gainesville installed the panels, which cover two sides of the roof. President Elaine Jacobson said she hopes projects like this will help solar energy become more widely adopted.

"The more solar we see, the more comfortable they'll feel," she said. "They won't feel like they're pioneers in this unknown alternative energy."

Currently, 181 businesses have been added to the feed-in tariff program, according to GRU. Applications for the next round of the program will open up on Jan. 17.

"It's a good investment," Jacobson said. "With the feed-in tariff, it's a great investment."

Students will be able to see how much energy the school is producing via a TV in the lobby.

"In Florida, it makes sense to do solar," she said. "Our universe is right there for us."

During this morning's dedication, students will wear sun hats and the Montessori Spotlight Singers will perform the Beatles' song "Here Comes the Sun."

Miller said she's always looking for educational opportunities that, in turn, save the school money.

"I'd like the U.S. to be energy-independent," she said. "I'm not always angled on what the person on the extreme green side would do."

Contact Jackie Alexander at or 338-3166.

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