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Vermont's First Net-Zero Energy Building - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vermont's First Net-Zero Energy Building

Putney, Vermont - October 10, 2009

A small high school in Windham County is working to promote energy efficiency. And it's a first of its kind project in Vermont.

The Putney School is a prep boarding school, serving grades 9 thru 12. The school is currently in the process of putting the finishing touches on a brand new field house that will be Vermont's first net-zero energy building.

"The operational cost of the building from an energy perspective is zero," said Putney School CFO Randy Smith.

Net-zero energy buildings are those that produce as much energy as they consume on an annual basis. The energy produced usually comes from on-site renewable energy sources. In this case, 16 solar arrays will provide the energy.

"So they will follow the sun's path throughout the day, and then they will reset at the end of the day and pick it up in the morning," said building architect Bill Gallup of William Marclay Architects and Planners.

During the winter months, the building will likely need to draw some power from the grid. During the summer, when less energy is needed, the excess energy will be fed back to the power grid.

"Over the course of the year, it is producing 36 kilowatts daily, and that's not going to match up with our total energy usage on a daily basis. But at the end of the year there is what should be a net usage of power we used against the power we are generating at the site," said Gallup.

The cost of the project was about $5 million dollars. To make it a net-zero energy building cost an extra $1.5 million. But the school feels the additional cost can be made up quickly with energy savings.

The Putney School uses oil to heat other buildings on campus. School CFO Randy Smith projected it could have cost the school as much as $10,000 a year to heat the 16,000 square-foot field house if it was built to standard code.

"Less than a year ago, oil was a $147 a barrel, so if this had been a standard oil building, it is going to take a while to make that up. This is a building that will cost the school very, very little to operate and maintain over a long period of time," said Smith.

"In this gym space, the sky lights equal four-percent of the gym space, so we are getting so much light in here on a normal day, they automatically turn off," said Gallup.

A monitor system has been setup so that the school can monitor usage throughout the year.

"Not only did we need a gym, but we needed to make a statement, because construction cannot go on as it has over the past decade, over the last 20 years," said Smith.

The new field house should be ready for the school to use sometime next month.

Matt Henson - WCAX News

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