new nonprofit agreement could help schools and other nonprofits install solar
BY RAMONA DU HOUX
April 20th, 2012
The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), the state’s leading environmental advocacy organization, has begun powering its Augusta headquarters with solar energy. NRCM partnered with ReVision Energy, a leader in solar design, installation, and service in Northern New England, to install solar panels on the roof of NRCM’s headquarters in Augusta as part of an innovative agreement. The agreement called for ReVision Energy to install the panels, while NRCM will pay the company for the power generated from the system at a rate per kilowatt-hour that is two cents less than a normal electric bill.
“NRCM always tries to find new and exciting ways to celebrate Earth Day, but I think this year’s celebration takes the cake,” said Lisa Pohlmann, Executive Director for NRCM. “The solar panels on our roof are making an immediate difference in our environment, as well as our electricity bills at NRCM. The innovative power purchase agreement with ReVision Energy has made this project a reality for us. It is enabling us to take significant steps forward in terms of clean energy, in a building where protecting Maine’s environment is a top priority."
The Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) has been developed by ReVision Energy to allow nonprofit organizations to invest in solar energy. While federal tax incentives have made solar energy projects more affordable for homes and businesses, nonprofits are ineligible for those benefits, as are municipalities and schools. The PPA levels the playing field.
ReVision Energy arranges the financing, installation, and management of the power output through the life of the agreement. The nonprofit pays its energy bills to the solar company. At the end of the agreement, the nonprofit has the option to renew the agreement, purchase the system outright, or return the equipment with no added expense.
“To most people, the most amazing fact about solar energy in Maine is its abundance in a state known for cold weather,” said ReVision Energy partner Phil Coupe. “In reality, Maine sees about 30% more sunshine per year than Germany, one of the world leaders in solar energy installations. Our solar resource is plentiful in Maine, and it is both environmentally friendly and cost effective for homes, businesses, and nonprofits.”The 55-panel solar energy system installed at NRCM will produce 15,600 kilowatt hours of energy annually. The solar array will reduce more than 16,000 lbs. of carbon pollution each year, or roughly the equivalent of the amount of pollution generated by burning 20 tons of coal at a power plant.
Solar panels installed by the same company on the Hinkley School- the first nonprofit the company put the panels up on. Photo by Ramona du Houx
“For us, the benefits of this project come from a couple of different directions,” said Pohlmann. “Obviously, protecting our environment is the mission of our organization and its members, but we cannot ignore the economic benefits that go along with it. Money is tight for nonprofits, businesses, and homeowners these days. By freeing up tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the project, NRCM will be able to invest those funds to do more to protect, restore, and conserve Maine’s environment. That is a substantial benefit of making this switch, and one that could be realized by any nonprofit, business, or homeowner in Maine.”
The system went online last month and is expected to save the nonprofit more than $32,000 over the life of the project. NRCM displayed the solar array during a media event Friday morning, and held an Earth Day celebration and talk at their facility called “Going Solar.” Earth Day is observed on April 22.