A new “airnasium,” or solar panel-lined roof on a metal structure constructed by Allied Steel Buildings has helped take the Virgin Islands Montessori School and International Academy off the electrical grid. The school is located in St. Thomas and is the only school in the territory completely powered by solar energy. Electrical costs for the school were nearly $84,00o per year, but school officials say with the new solar power system and steel structure, that cost is now zero.
“The school was undergoing a major expansion, and we were brought in to provide design and build options for the gymnasium and other structures,” said Mike Stock, who spearheaded the project for Allied Steel Buildings’ Caribbean and Latin American Department. “We worked with them on the design so they could get off the grid.”
The 9,000-square-foot outdoor structure has no walls and will serve multiple purposes – both an auditorium and a sports facility. There is a playground for toddlers with sand on one side, and also has a dedicated area that can be set up with a stage for special events. The solar panels on the roof of the building have an output of about 13,000 kilowatt/hours of power a month. When combined with other solar-powered projects, that’s enough to power the entire school. The new building is also used to collect rain water, and has the capacity to provide 25,000 gallons of water for the school to use on irrigation.
To celebrate the new building, the school held a Solar Splash Concert with a number of local bands performing at an eco-fair event under the roof lined with solar panels. At the event, attendees got the chance to learn more about how they can start to save on energy bills while at the same time helping the environment.