Colby Sawyer College - Solar Power
Thanks to Heikki Perry of The Green Alliance who wrote this article. Photos courtesy Colby Sawyer College

ReVision Energy has partnered with Colby-Sawyer College to build one of the largest solar photovoltaic arrays in New Hampshire, initiating a significant step toward the college’s long-term goal of becoming a carbon-neutral campus by 2050. A total of 517 solar photovoltaic panels have been installed on the roofs of four campus buildings at no expense out of pocket to Colby Sawyer, offering electricity from the sun more cost effectively than the traditional power company and fossil fuels can offer.

The system provides a visible manifestation of Colby-Sawyer’s commitment to sustainability and an example of active renewable energy systems on campus. Over the 25-year warranty life of the panels, the system will generate more than 3.3 million kilowatt-hours bringing more than $435,000 of anticipated utility savings to the campus. Colby-Sawyer’s solar energy system is expected to generate roughly 152,000 kwh of electricity annually, thereby eliminating more than 197,000 pounds of CO2 emissions from regional fossil-fuel power plants each year.

The project was financed by ReVision Energy through a power purchase agreement between Colby-Sawyer and the company, by which the college pays no up-front costs for the installation. ReVision leases the roof spaces from the college for a nominal fee and will own and operate the panels for six years, after which the college has the option to purchase the panels or simply continue buying power from the array. Power generated by the panels feeds into the existing electrical system of each building, and Colby-Sawyer will pay ReVision a discounted rate for the power the panels generate.

“ReVision Energy is a mission-driven company that wants to get more renewable energy systems out there in the world and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. As a business, ReVision can take advantage of the 30 percent federal tax credit, state rebates and other financial incentives that nonprofits in New Hampshire can’t actually access,” says Colby-Sawyer’s Sustainability Coordinator Jennifer White.

More Cost Effective than Fossil Fuels

ReVision Energy at Colby Sawyer Londonderry NH

“With the tremendous reduction in solar electric panel prices since 2008, ReVision Energy is proud to show that solar power is actually substantially more cost effective than our traditional fossil fuel-based power generators,” says Steve Condon, sales and marketing manager with ReVision. “Generating our electricity from the sun is predictable, available, and has no negative impact on the surrounding environment. And, the campus will save money on day one.”

New Hampshire has a number of progressive clean energy incentive programs available to homeowners, business owners and non-profit institutions to help jumpstart the state’s renewable energy economy and accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. On Colby-Sawyer’s behalf, ReVision applied for and was awarded a $100,000 grant from the N.H. Public Utilities Commission.

“For six years, Colby-Sawyer will write two checks to pay for electricity, one to Public Service of New Hampshire and one to ReVision,” says White. “Combined, the total is less than what we would have been paying otherwise, thanks to the grant, the rebates and ReVision’s discounted rate for the solar power produced.”

With a lifespan of up to four decades, the panels should still be in prime condition in six years, when Colby-Sawyer will have the option to purchase the system from ReVision. When the system is college-owned, all power generated by the panels will be free at which point campus savings is expected to be approximately $20,000 annually.

“ReVision Energy has both a mission to help the reduce the region’s C02 emissions and nonprofits are a large part of that community. That is why we are proud to be able to make solar attainable to the institution through a power purchase agreement,” Condon says. “These PPAs allow ReVision Energy to own and operate the array for a short period of time while passing the tax benefits and solar energy production off to the customer. Over a six-year period the customer recognizes a substantially reduced investment through the tax benefits that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to take advantage of as a nonprofit. Our goal at ReVision is to help our nonprofits attain ownership of their power needs in just a few years.”

As for working with ReVision, Colby-Sawyer is nothing but pleased, says Sustainability Coordinator White.

“Working with ReVision was a great experience. All of the staff were friendly, professional and knowledgeable, and they led us carefully through each part of the process, from introducing the PPA concept to the administration, to applying —and receiving — the NHPUC grant, to the installation itself. We’re looking forward to utilizing the web-based tracking software in classes as well, and the students love having solar panels on campus.

“If the opportunity presented itself, I would definitely work with ReVision Energy again.”