North Branch Nature Center Goes Net Zero

Montpelier’s own local nature center along the North Branch of the Winooski River is going net zero! With the installation of a 15 kW solar array, the two existing renovated buildings and a new multipurpose space added to the farmhouse will all be powered by the sun once construction is complete in late 2017. NBNC’s solar array was funded in part by a $20,000 grant from Green Mountain Power, along with an innovative partnership with local supporter Matthew Rubin and other donors. Catamount Solar installed the array and provided a donation of in-kind services as well.15325258_1252847768115097_2114586027520353010_o

NBNC Executive Director Chip Darmstadt said that the Center has been working closely with Black River Design of Montpelier to design the plans for the new addition, and LandWorks of Middlebury to plan the site improvements. After several years of planning and community input, NBNC developed a long-range plan to expand and enhance its educational programs. Called “Our Future in Nature,” the expansion has several major components:

  • A new, inviting Community Nature Center will offer a welcome area and much-needed space for year-round activities, including a multi-purpose room capable of seating 99 people.
  • The renovated Barn will become a Forest Preschool Classroom with heat and running water.
  • Eco-friendly landscaping and design improvements will include a nature playscape, a bird-banding station, and an expanded pollinator garden.
  • Renovations to the existing 1850s farmhouse will improve its energy efficiency and functionality.
  • Utilizing solar energy, the facility will become “net zero” by the end of 2017, eliminating all fossil fuel use and using 100% renewable energy.
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Rendering of the NBNC farmhouse with new addition (courtesy Black River Design)

NBNC’s mission is to connect people of all ages with the natural world. Vermonters of all ages attend programs onsite and at outdoor destinations around Vermont. NBNC also leads trips to birding hot-spots from Maine to Central America; offers nine weeks of summer camp; teaches young children outdoors in the Forest Preschool Program; and partners with nine Central Vermont public elementary schools with their ECO (Educating Children Outdoors) Program, which serves more than 650 children each year.

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