Financing Solar for Nonprofits
Schools & Nonprofits | May 31, 2022 | Posted by Jill McLaughlin
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Power Purchase Agreements for Nonprofit Solar Champions
As an employee-owned company and Certified B Corp, ReVision Energy has a lot of mission and values overlap with local nonprofit organizations. Our employee-owners are often involved on nonprofit boards and spend our annual volunteer hours helping in various ways. Solar energy is a fantastic way for nonprofits to advance their sustainability goals while also cutting costs – we’d much rather see that monthly utility money put towards rescuing more dogs, feeding more people, or providing more education. Because nonprofits can’t take advantage of the federal tax credit for solar, there are a few creative financing structures available so that the organizations can enjoy the same benefits of clean solar power afforded to businesses and homeowners. In recent months we’ve celebrated the installation of a number of these and we wanted to highlight a few.
For more information on solar for nonprofits (including Power Purchase Agreements, Net Billing Credits, and more) watch the recording of our Solar for Nonprofits webinar, featuring VP of Business Development Dan Weeks in conversation with Ken Neil of the Boys & Girls Club of Manchester.
The Boston Nature Center (BNC) in Mattapan embarked on an ambitious commitment to become carbon neutral by 2022, which includes installations of both rooftop and ground-mounted solar systems. In April we celebrated the unveiling of their 260 solar panels, which will generate over 136,000 pounds of carbon every year.
This project was funded in large part by $100,000 commitments from the City of Boston’s George Robert White Fund, Tern Foundation’s TernSOLAR challenge grant program, and several generous individual donors.
This is a unique situation in which 2 nonprofits partnered on a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) for a 231 kw array. Alone, Coastal Rivers’ and Kieve Wavus’ power needs were not great enough for them to enter into a PPA in which the rates would be lower than their current electrical rates. By partnering, however, both organizations were able to achieve the scale they needed to immediately pay less per kilowatt-hour than previously. Situated on Round Top Farm on Coastal Rivers’ campus, this system will generate roughly 312,000 kwh a year, offsetting the electric costs for both groups.
“We are a land trust, with a commitment to the health of the properties in our care, including islands, coastal properties, and fragile natural communities. All these lands are subject to impacts from a changing climate. That’s why we’re doing as much as we can to reduce the carbon footprint of our operations. This solar project is the key to a sustainable energy supply even as we seek to reduce our energy use and switch from fossil fuels to electricity.” —Steven Hufnagel, Executive Director of Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust
“The partnership between Coastal Rivers and Kieve Wavus is an inspiring solution to the obstacles that many small nonprofits face in their journey to become solar powered. They are modeling for their communities, members, and other nonprofits that we can’t fight the climate crisis alone and that finding like-minded partners is a powerful force for good.” —Joe Pagano, Solar Design Specialist, ReVision Energy
This 5 MW array, which went online in March, is the first to provide the majority of its clean energy to public schools in the state. Mt. Blue Regional School District (RSU9), Spruce Mountain School District (RSU73), Camden Rockport School District (MSAD28), Camden Hills Regional High School, and Hope Elementary School have all taken steps to reducing their carbon footprint at no upfront cost by participating in the PPA. This project is also using Maine’s Net Energy Billing credits program, by providing energy offsite that is then allocated to each school’s utility account. Ninety-six percent of the clean energy produced by the array will go to towards offsetting the schools’ energy needs, with the remaining four percent going to Farmington Water District.
“We could not be more excited or proud to be participating in this cutting-edge solution to preserving farmland, reducing greenhouse gases, and saving money for our local taxpayers. It is so important for our students to learn in a place that demonstrates collaboration, sustainability leadership, and sound financial decision-making. Our participation in this clean energy project reflects the very values we are trying to impart. It is one of many things our district has done to move toward a reduced carbon footprint.”— Maria Libby, Superintendent of the Five Town CSD and MSAD 28 school districts.
The landowners, Evelyn Norton and Priscilla Swartzlander, were born in the farmhouse that still stands on the property. Their father Harold Souther, 98, was also born in the family’s generational home and still lives there. Souther ran the dairy and poultry farm for years, taking over operations from his father. The land is now leased to a neighbor and a cousin for pastureland, raising livestock, and hay production. In the fall pumpkins, squash, and cornstalk are sold. Her father wanted to ensure the farm will stay in the family once he is gone and saw the solar farm as a way to ensure this. The money from the leased land will allow his family to keep the property.
“So many school districts are going to benefit from this, and that’s huge to us.” —Evelyn Norton, landowner
Oyster River Middle School’s brand-new building opened its doors to students and teachers in February and is now on track to be one of the largest net-positive energy school buildings in New England. Their 1,450 panel rooftop array was financed through a PPA with a private investor, and is estimated to generate 697,000 kWh annually, offsetting 683,757 pounds of carbon every year.
“Oyster River Middle School is a state-of-the-art facility that uses sustainable resources to heat and cool the building, dramatically reducing dependence on fossil fuel, which will save the taxpayers of the district millions of dollars in utility costs over the next 25 years.” —Dr. Jim Morse, Oyster River School District Superintendent
In 2015, The Friends School of Portland used a PPA to install 144 solar panels on the roof of their net-zero school building. This PPA was funded by Ocean View Retirement Community (which also installs solar on their own cottages) and, after the 6 year buyout period, donated the array to the Friends School in 2021.
“This partnership extends beyond a financing component. OceanView shares the Friends School of Portland’s commitment to clean energy and stewardship, and we envision a great intergenerational partnership for years to come. With multiple solar projects across all our properties, the value of alternative energy cannot be understated.” —John Wasileski, OceanView owner
The school is the 3rd in the country to be Passive-House designated, and the first in Maine. In 2021 the Friends School added another 280 panels to their roof as an expansion, funded through another PPA, to continue their commitment to net-zero.
The newly renovated Peterborough Public Library opened last fall with a host of sustainable features including a biomass system for heating, an absorption system to keep the building cool, and a 71-kw rooftop solar array.
The library received a $50,000 grant for the solar array from EBSCO Information Services, an Ipswich, MA-based company that offers services for libraries around the world. The company gives out yearly grants to libraries around the world to help them go solar and reduce energy expenses, and Peterborough Library is the first in the Northeast to receive the grant. A private investment group funded the PPA for the remaining amount.
“Adding solar to the building will enable the library to be almost completely free of fossil fuels. We look forward to creating an interactive dashboard for the public and using our building as another great example of how small towns can and should prioritize sustainable energy.” —Corinne Chronopoulous, Library Director