Solar is one of the fastest growing markets and continues to have great impact on our society. In 2012 alone, the solar energy industry grew by 76% in the United States! One particular area of growth for US solar has been school districts across the country that have gone solar to better manage their budgets and reduce their energy bills. The Dublin City High School District in central Georgia, for example, was just recently in the news for their 1.1MW project on their school campus. The solar array is expected to save the school district $3.5 million over the next 25 years.
Why does solar and schools make so much sense? One reason why the Dublin City School Districts and others are going solar is because of the financial benefits that may come with a solar installation. There are several rebates and credits to help make solar more affordable for schools and most solar schools are eligible for Net Metering credits. This Net Metering credit allows schools to route excess electricity back onto the grid and receive credit from the utility company for the energy produced from the solar system. A Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is also another great financial option to reduce or eliminate the cost of a solar system. As utility bills are typically the second highest expense for a school district, solar offers schools the security of predictable and reduced energy costs for almost 20 years!
Another important benefit of solar for educational institutions are the teaching opportunities the system can offer the students and local community. Solar installations can offer real-life curriculum content – from the engineering and technology of how solar works to the environmental offset and impact the system will have on the surrounding community. For our clients, Standard Solar offers education programs where students, grades K-12, are introduced to solar and educated with an in-depth curriculum on the benefits of having a solar system and how it works. This helps to grow the students’ knowledge and appreciation of their environment, health and future.
Educational institutions, like The Dublin City School District and others, are discovering how solar makes sense for their budgets and their students. Standard Solar has partnered with several schools to develop, design, engineer, finance and install their solar arrays. “Solar installations are a great fit for educational institutions, providing significant economic and environmental benefits as well as offering educational opportunities for the students,” said Scott Wiater, president, Standard Solar. Some of our education clients Sandy Springs Friends School(SSFS), Catholic University of America (CUA), University of Delaware, Anne Arundel Community College, Wilmington Friends School, St. Mary’s County Public Schools and others.
|Kent County School students touring the Worton 1.26 MW installation with Standard Solar staff.||Students at Sandy Spring Friends School celebrating the completion of the 477 kW solar array.|
Project financing and the basics of PPAs
From the East Coast to the West Coast and everywhere in-between, businesses and organizations of all types—universities, colleges, municipalities, government buildings, agricultural and farming operations and more—are realizing the benefits of solar power. One popular option available for financing commercial-scale installations is a power purchase agreement, or PPA. Many of the projects that we have worked on in the last few years or so have come to fruition as a result of this kind of partnership, from the Perdue installations in Delaware and Maryland to Washington, DC’s American University. If your organization is interested in benefiting from solar energy, this type of financing should most certainly be on your radar. So how does it work?
PPAs are arrangements through which a host customer agrees to provide the physical property on which a solar PV system is built, and purchases the resulting electricity at a stable price for a number of years. The system is owned and maintained by the developer, or solar service provider.
PPAs are attractive to organizations for several reasons. The arrangement allows an organization to fix the cost of electricity for many years, and do so without much of an upfront capital investment. The installation also increases the valueof the property on which it’s built. In addition, the organization can meet its own internal goals for sustainability while making a visible, tangible commitment to the environment.
For example, in June of last year, we installed a 753 kW system for Maryland’s Anne Arundel Community College (AACC). The entire photovoltaic (PV) system was installed on top of a covered parking structure – the largest such system in Maryland and one of the largest carport systems on the East Coast (pictured below). It is expected to generate approximately one million kilowatt hours of electricity in its first year of operations, enough to power about 100 average homes and the equivalent of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from more than 77,000 gallons of gasoline per year, or over 1 million gallons over the next 15 years. The system is projected to save the college more than $300,000 over the next 15 years.
AACC received a $750,000 grant from the Maryland Energy Administration via the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to contribute to the financing of the system. Washington Gas Energy Services (WGES) provided the financing for the balance of the project costs and owns and operates the PV system. WGES will sell the output of the solar panels to AACC through a 15-year PPA, enabling AACC to host the solar project without any capital outlay.
Prefer a visual of how a PPA works and all the parties involved? The image below (from the U.S. EPA) does a pretty good job (we think) of laying out the different entities and responsibilities involved.
We’ve been in the position of both the installer and solar services provider for a wide variety of projects. Our experience has given us a wealth of knowledge to draw from, which we are happy to share with organizations that are considering adding solar power to their facilities. If that’s you, we are here to help.
Standard Solar, Inc., announced today that it will install solar power at the University of Delaware in partnership with Perpetual Energy Solutions LLC. The system will be installed on three buildings located on the main campus of the University of Delaware in Newark totaling 2000 panels and 850 kilowatts. This will be the first joint project between the two companies since the announcement of their partnership in June 2010.
The solar array planned for one of the installations, atop the Delaware Field House, will be the largest rooftop installation in the state of Delaware.
The University of Delaware has long been a proponent of solar energy dating back to the creation of a solar energy program in the early 1970′s. The University has provided the solar industry with many new developments which have helped accelerate the growth of the solar industry in the United States and abroad. It’s leadership continues with the adoption of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) under which the University buys electricity from Perpetual, the actual system owner, which can claim the tax and related benefits from their ownership position.
The University’s commitment to solar power lies not only in the research labs across campus, but also in the student body itself. The solar arrays will be funded in part by the senior class gift from the class of 2009, demonstrating the importance of green initiatives to University students beyond the classroom setting.
The PPA comes on the heels of the state of Delaware passing a strengthened Renewable Energy Standard Portfolio. In late July, the Delaware state Senate passed Senate Bill 119, boosting renewable energy requirements to 13% by 2015 with 1% coming from solar. The bill requires that 25% of electricity be generated by renewable sources with 3% coming from solar by the year 2025.
The commitment to renewable energy in the state has made it possible for institutions like the University of Delaware to undertake large scale renewable energy initiatives that are positioning Delaware as one of the front runners in the race to reduce our nation’s carbon emissions.