Guest Blog: JLS MAILING SOARS WITH 100% SOLAR POWER

At Solect we are proud of the role we can play in empowering small business to take control of their energy expenses, turning them into a way to remain competitive in today’s increasingly aggressive business climate. As a company that requires a great deal of electricity to operate their digital copiers, inserters, folders and presort equipment, JLS was looking for a way to reduce their energy costs. The 98-year old mailing company has been successful by taking advantage of every opportunity to stay competitive in the marketplace. When JLS started to explore solar energy as a solution to their ever-increasing electric bill, they realized its potential to provide more than cost savings.

Jim Clark, President, JLS Mailing Services

 

“This was our Moonshot,” explains Jim Clark, President of JLS Mailing Services. “We never imagined it would take so long and involve so much luck and perseverance, but we did it!”

 

 

 

A full eighteen months after JLS first sat down with a solar contractor and sketched out a roof mounted PV (photo voltaic) solar grid, the system was finally ready to go live. JLS Mailing Services is a 98 year-old company owned by Clark providing premier presort, digital print and mailing services to all New England states and beyond. During peak demand months JLS would see its electric bills climb to $17,000 to power its well-equipped 100,000 square foot building. With an annual electric bill of over $134,000 JLS had an urgent desire to take a more radical approach to staying competitive.

Being a small company JLS didn’t have free resources to burn in developing a full RFP process for a solar array. It did the next best thing which was to begin to work with a local commercial solar contractor in order to develop a rough order of magnitude (ROM) for the project then to invite in two other well-known solar contractors to bid against the exact same parameters. In the end JLS chose Solect Energy Development of Hopkinton, MA. The project outline would produce 536kW, generated by 2066 roof panels fed through a 500kW inverter channeling energy through a net meter connected to the local electrical grid. When JLS over-produced power it would bank the excess with the electric provider, and would drew down from that bank in times when the solar array was less active. The total price tag for the project was $1.26 million. In the end JLS chose to award the work to the local contractor based on their excellent credentials, and success with projects for area universities, museums, and other similar corporations. A significant advantage for JLS is that it had an on-board special projects person who was an experienced Project Manager who would take total control overseeing the myriad details of this massive endeavor.

In the fall of 2014 JLS had expectations that ground would be broken before the year’s end. In truth, the next several months were spent wrapping up financing and lining up multiple parties for a closing date. JLS’ primary banking partner was not familiar with the growing solar industry and expressed reservations. JLS was referred to Commerce Bank who knew the unique financial requirements of the solar industry. JLS needed their special expertise. JLS consulted on many occasions with its own accountants, first assessing liquidity, and then gauging tax appetite for Federal Tax allowances since that would serve as a major financial incentive.

JLS held back on making a firm commitment on the project until it perfectly understood the return on investment still being mindful that time was working against it. In JLS’ home state of Massachusetts, commercial solar projects needing to interconnect with the electric grid are highly regulated so as not to exceed a set annual cap of new commercial solar tie-ins. The state also provides an economic incentive through what is called the SREC II program. This program allows commercial solar producers to earn solar renewable energy credits (SREC’s) for every Megawatt of production. The SRECs are then available to be sold at quarterly auctions. Each SREC had an auction value of about $270.00. It also was understood that the State’s SREC II program would be sunset in the not too distant future. In order for JLS to maximize its financial position JLS need to have the opportunity to tie-in quickly before the Cap allowance was filled; have as much capacity to take the Federal Tax credit; to be eligible for the SREC II program; and to be able convert all of our SREC auction credits to cash. Financially there was much more at stake that just reducing our monthly electric expenses.

Through the first quarter of 2015 JLS worked with its financing partners at Commerce Bank and were offered a loan package that included a loan portion from the SBA. Each institution employed its own set of application criteria. More than just filling out forms JLS found itself hiring experts to complete several different environmental impact studies and independent proofs of guaranteed energy savings.

A closing date for financing was set for June 2015. “But we could see all of the stars lining up for JLS, says Jim Clark. We had financial backing for a 622 Megawatt solar system that would cover 80% of our electric costs; a 100,000 square foot unobstructed flat roof with a relatively new membrane; full appetite for maximum federal tax credits; access to the state SREC program; and time to apply under the electric grid Cap allowance for new tie-ins.” In all JLS projected that the JLS solar project would conservatively have an ROI of 7 years with a system life span of 20 years. But more good news was on the way.

The closing date was pushed back several times through the summer or 2015 as closing attorneys added their fine touches to the agreements. The final closing was held in August, 2015. At the closing, company President, Jim Clark, was presented with a bound volume of the closing documents that measured 6 inches thick! Construction on the solar system commenced in earnest in late September 2015 and continued through December. Much of that time was spent with workers dropping in the inverter, pulling cables in to the building, hooking up car charging stations, installing panels on the roof and installing the net electric meter.

An unexpected bonus came to light when JLS was informed by its regular electrical contractor that energy savings grants were available from the state for upgrading to more energy efficient electrical systems. The two grants that JLS qualified for was first, converting the entire production area’s four foot fluorescent tube lighting to LED fixtures, and the second was for changing out an aging commercial compressor for a modern, more energy efficient model.

The JLS solar system came to life in February of 2016. Combined with both grant extensions for LED lighting and the new compressor, the reduced electric demand meant that the new solar system would in fact provide power equal to JLS’ annual revised demand. JLS was now 100% powered by the sun!

Since JLS went solar they have operated eight straight months with zero electric bills. JLS has additionally earned more than $140,000 in solar credits for a total in avoided costs of more than $250,000. The recalculated ROI now stands at 5 years.

JLS customers love the story and always give positive feedback. How often can you find a nearly 100 year old company in a very mature market taking such a giant step forward with renewable energy technology? “Yes, it was a difficult and risky journey, but one we would gladly take again if necessary”, says Clark.

[NEREJ Feature] Solar & Cannabis in Massachusetts

 

In Massachusetts and across the country, the medicinal and recreational cannabis industry is growing rapidly, creating a wealth of business opportunities in construction, indoor agriculture, agri-tech, security, bio-sciences and … energy.

On July 28th Governor Charlie Baker signed the Massachusetts Marijuana Compromise Bill, a revision of the voter-passed recreational marjauana law, green lighting the industry to move ahead with recreational retail sales by July 1, 2018.

The signing of this bill will spur rapid growth of cannabis cultivation across the state. The energy demands of indoor growing facilities are enormous and solar can help marijuana growers operate more efficiently, reduce costs, and lower emissions.

Continue reading excerpts from Solect Energy’s Senior Vice President Scott Howe’s article in the July issue of NEREJ to learn more about the the numerous energy challenges the cannabis industry faces , and how solar is the perfect solution to overcome many of these hurdles. 

For the complete article in NEREJ, click the link below to access the article.

 

We Are Solect Energy

 

At Solect Energy, we view the challenge of energy as an opportunity for your business.

With the high cost of electricity, that statement might sound counterintuitive, but it is simple math.  By helping our customers reduce their energy expenses, the substantial savings they gain from solar get redirected back into their businesses and help to fuel future growth.

Solect is proud to be the recognized leader in commercial-scale solar, helping organizations reduce costs and optimize their solar investment through smart, customized energy strategies and solutions that meet the highest standards for quality, safety, and efficiency. We take a practical, systematic approach to deliver solar design and installation, operations and maintenance services, and the most advanced energy storage systems.

It is a priority for us that our customers view us as their trusted energy partner – here for them today and every step of the way. That’s smart solar and smart business.

Please take a minute to watch our Solect Energy Corporate Video and learn more about what solar and Solect Energy can do to turn your energy challenge into an opportunity.

Guest Blog: Capacity Charges Drive Up the Cost of Electricity for Customers Across New England

Controlling Peak Usage Through Variety of Measures Can Help Mitigate the Impact

By Liam Sullivan, Vice President of Marketing & Communications at PowerOptions

Customers across New England are seeing an increase in their electricity costs, even as the electric commodity price has remained relatively stable. This is due in large part to an increase in capacity costs. Capacity charges were about 10-15% of the electricity supply portion of the bill for the 2016-17 power year (June 1 – May 31) but have increased to as much as 25-30% of electric supply costs for the 2017-18 power year and similar for 2018-19.

Generation capacity charges are costs imposed on all customers by the electric grid system operator, ISO-NE (the Independent System Operator of New England), to ensure that the region has enough power to serve the maximum customer demand, typically on hot summer afternoons.

Customer capacity charges are used to compensate electricity generators for the need to remain ready and available with adequate generation. This is especially important today, as a number of power plants in New England have recently retired or are on the verge of doing so. This compensation allows marginal power plants—ones that may not necessarily be economical in the competitive market—to remain open until new generation or other resources are available to meet power requirements at the maximum demand.

ISO-NE divides New England into three power load zones: Northeastern Massachusetts (NEMA); Southeastern Massachusetts (SEMA); and Rest of Pool (ROP), which includes Western Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Northern New England. Capacity costs are determined through an auction, where generators bid to serve the load in each zone for a specific 12-month time period.

The graph below shows the impact of capacity prices for each zone over time.

Capacity charges are imposed on all customers, but the amount charged varies based on each individual customer’s usage, measured by ISO-NE on the hour of peak demand. That measurement is called an ICAP Tag or capacity tag, and it indicates the amount of generation ISO-NE needs to allocate for that specific customer. As we enter the hot summer months, customers who can manage their usage on potential peak hours can mitigate capacity charges by lowering their capacity tag.

So how do customers go about lowering a capacity tag?

On-site solar generation is a great way to manage usage during peak hours. Since solar panels will be generating at high levels during hot summer afternoons, it should be a seamless operation. Some customers utilize other forms of on-site generation or have advanced demand management systems to allow them to effectively control power usage. But even without sophisticated demand management equipment, there are some simple steps that you can take to help lower usage at those peak times.

By taking some action, your initial benefit will be a lower electric bill, and the future benefit will be a reduced ICAP Tag, which will decrease your electricity costs into the future. Those actions can include:

  • Turning off lights in unused spaces;
  • Raising the thermostat a couple of degrees, or cycling the compressors and just leaving the fan on;
  • Shutting off computers and other office equipment that is not currently in use; and
  • Closing the blinds and any exterior or interior doors that would affect the loss of cooling.

For more information about various energy efficiency options for businesses and institutions in Massachusetts, check out the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.

About PowerOptions

PowerOptions is a nonprofit energy buying consortium that delivers cost savings and predictability to nonprofits and the public sector in New England. Our 500 members benefit from energy supply offerings for electricity, natural gas and solar. An added value, PowerOptions provides members with alerts on potential times of peak demand to help them to manage their capacity tag. Members participating in PowerOptions ICAP Tag Reduction Program can earn rebates for reducing their capacity tag by 10% or more—in 2017, certain members earned rebates of nearly $50,000. Established in 1998, any nonprofit or public institution in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut is eligible to participate in this collective purchasing effort. For more information, visit www.poweroptions.org or follow us on Twitter at @PowerOptions.

How Energy Storage Can Lower Hidden Costs

Any business that consumes a lot of energy knows that the cost of energy depends not just on how much you use but how and when you use it.

Conceptually, the grid works like any other market, ruled by the laws of supply and demand. You pay not just for the amount of power you use, but when you use it. If customers all need power at the same time, such as a hot summer afternoon, this means there is strong demand and that the supply needs to be managed to meet that demand. At the grid level, we have limited ability to store energy for these times of heavy use. Usually, that means grid system operators need to call on expensive “peaking plants” which can skyrocket the costs of electricity.

To capture these additional costs and better manage the electric system, energy consumers are charged in several different ways based on their energy usage profiles. We have listed four different opportunities where storage could dramatically lower your costs. Keep in mind that these charges may not apply to every customer based on your location, energy provider and specific incentives and policies.

 

Power Factor Correction: Ongoing

Problem: Energy consuming equipment can be inefficient in the way it uses electricity, known as power factor.

Solution: Certain storage technologies can improve power factor resulting in a more efficient use of energy.

Reduce Capacity Charges: Annual

Problem: Capacity charges are based on a customer’s peak usage per year.

Solution: An energy storage system can be used to reduce a customer’s peak usage and the associated demand charges.

Reduce Demand Charges: Monthly

Problem: Demand charges are for a customer’s peak usage during the monthly billing cycle.

Solution: An energy storage system can be deployed to avoid these monthly peaks.

Manage Time of Use Optimization: Daily

Problem: Sometimes customers can be charged more for using power during periods of peak demand during the day.

Solution: An energy storage system can allow you to shift your peak load away from high demand times during the day.

Solar is the Foundation:

Obviously, any energy storage system will require energy to charge it. A solar energy system makes a great platform to enhance an energy storage system providing the benefits of reduced costs, dependability and lower emissions.

These opportunities will vary based on your energy consumption profile, location, electricity providers and evolving regulations. If you want to reduce these “hidden energy costs” Solect can do the analysis to find the best solution. We have the expertise to analyze your energy consumption patterns then match that to the specific requirements of your energy provider and the relevant incentives and regulations. We are also deeply involved in the development of new policies, so you can be sure that we will be providing solutions that will work with the evolving market.

 

[NEREJ Feature] What is the Renewable Portfolio Standard and Why Does it Matter?

It’s no secret that renewable energy in New England has gone mainstream. Just drive down the highway and you will see solar arrays on commercial buildings, installation trucks driving to their next project or wind turbines dotting the landscape; all reminding us that we are experiencing a clean energy boom. According to a recent report by the Mass Clean Energy Council (MassCEC) on clean energy jobs in Massachusetts, the Commonwealth’s clean energy economy employs nearly 100,000 people at over 6,400 companies, representing nearly $11 billion in investment.

One could argue that the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is the single policy that has done the most to create this boom and advance clean energy in the Northeast and 29 states total across the U.S.

What exactly is an RPS? An RPS is a program designed to promote the adoption of renewable energy. It requires utilities and other energy providers to procure a set amount of their energy from renewable sources. For example, in Massachusetts the rate increases each year by 1% through 2030 with a total target of 25%, and in Connecticut by 1.5% through 2020 with a target of 20%.

The RPS allows renewable energy generators like wind farms and solar energy system owners to sell Renewable Energy Certificates (RECS), in addition to the energy itself. A REC represents 1 megawatt-hour of renewable power that can be bought and sold. In this way, there is a liquid market where energy providers (utilities and other retail providers) can easily secure the RECs needed to meet their regulatory requirements. The additional revenue acts as an incentive for developers and owners and makes it easier to finance projects. The RPS is an efficient market-based policy that has provided the stimulus to launch the region’s clean energy industry and to help states meet their legal commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, a new study by the Northeast Clean Energy Council shows that the supply of RECs is outpacing the regulatory demand requirement—supply is outpacing demand. This puts at risk the ability of renewable energy developers to secure the financing they need to build their projects.

Continue reading excerpts from Solect Energy’s Craig Huntley’s article in the June issue of NEREJ to learn more about what exactly an RPS entails, how it’s helped the country quantify our renewable energy goals, and the potential RPS programs bring for our future. 

For the complete article in NEREJ, click the link below to access the article.

[NEREJ Feature] What is the Renewable Portfolio Standard and Why Does it Matter?

Solar Insights: Malden Catholic High School

We expect solar from Solect will help to stabilize future energy costs through the 20-year rate agreement for a significant portion of our electrical consumption. 

-Tom Doherty, Malden Catholic

Tom Doherty, Headmaster

Since 1932, Malden Catholic, an independent, college-preparatory school sponsored by the Xaverian Brothers, has created a family-like community of faith that has fashioned men of character from boys entrusted by parents to our care.  A regional school for 600 young men, Malden Catholic strives to maintain the intimacy of its beginnings as a parish high school that prepared generations of its sons for rewarding college careers, success in a variety of professions and endeavors, and meaningful personal lives.  

At Malden Catholic, young men thrive in a nurturing environment that fosters academic excellence, character formation based on Christian values and personal achievement. Students who attend our school have in common a desire and drive to succeed in the classroom, on the field and in their communities. This strong work ethic and commitment to “plus ultra” or “more beyond” is central to Malden Catholic. It’s how we develop the leaders of tomorrow.

What prompted you to initially explore solar for your school?

We feel an obligation to our families, our donors and our community to act responsibly. Installing solar has both environmental and financial benefits.

What were the main reasons you decided to install solar?

Solar is environmentally effective, enabling us to be a good steward of natural resources and reduce Malden Catholic’s carbon footprint. Solar is also cost-effective, enabling us to be a good steward of the financial resources we receive through tuition payments and through donations to the school, from every angle, it’s the right thing to do.

What were your energy costs before installing solar? And after?

We expect solar from Solect will help to stabilize future energy costs through the 20-year rate agreement for a significant portion of our electrical consumption.  

How has installing solar encouraged your school to think “green” in other initiatives?

Solar is part of a larger Green Initiative at Malden Catholic.  From recycling to energy-efficient lighting to a transition from printed to online marketing materials, the school has made strides in advancing environmental awareness and responsibility.  Solar from Solect is the next logical step.

Although most schools do not have the option of taking advantage of state and federal solar tax incentives as nonprofit entities, they can still benefit from these policies through on-site power purchase agreements (PPA). PPAs are contracts where solar energy companies finance, build, own, and maintain a system on the customer’s site and sell the solar electricity generated back to the organization at a reduced, fixed rate – usually at a significant discount compared to what the utility charges for electricity. This rate is offered over an extended period of time—typically 15 to 20 years. Under this model, the customer incurs no (or very low) upfront costs and saves money in the long term.

Guest Blog: IMPACT Melanoma & Sunscreen Awareness

As the leading commercial-scale solar developer and installer in Massachusetts, Solect employs hundreds of installers throughout the year, ensuring a safe operating environment; from hard hats to safety railings – we always have the bases covered. As May is Melanoma Awareness month, we are reminded that one unassuming threat installers encounter every day is actually the reason they’re on the roof to begin with: the sun.
Just as the sun is powerful enough to supply us with boundless renewable energy, it’s also powerful enough to negatively impact the health of many. This synergy is the driving motivator for our partnership with IMPACT Melanoma, the authors of this week’s blog post.

IMPACT Melanoma, a national non-profit aimed at reducing the incidence of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is committed to sun-safety.  Recently, IMPACT Melanoma conducted an independent national survey of 1,016 adults inquiring about the frequency of sunscreen application by season, sunscreen preference and opinions about free public sunscreen.

The results were in some ways anticipated with 86 percent of participants using sunscreen “always” or “sometimes” in the summer months, but also surprising, finding a near complete reversal of use between summer and fall, lower use of sunscreen in Southern states despite the warmer climates, and a concerning lack of use among African Americans, even in summer months.

As a proud partner of Solect Energy for the last 5 years, IMPACT Melanoma works to educate their team in best practices for safe sun behavior.  As outdoors workers, the Solect construction team is exposed daily to harmful UV rays, but protecting yourself is fairly easy.

Here are some great tips on how anyone can practice sun-safe skin:

  • Wear SPF 30 or above regularly, especially when outdoors, using a full 1 ounce portion to cover all exposed parts of your body
  • Be sure to rub the sunscreen in thoroughly and to reapply every two hours
  • Wear a hat, protective clothing and sunglasses
  • Don’t forget the tops of your ears, feet and back of the hands!

Remember that it is important to protect yourself all year long, as the sun’s harmful UV rays are always present.

Stay tuned for more information about our upcoming sun safety event!

To learn more about sun safety for outdoor workers, we encourage you to check out our Melanoma Awareness page. Remember don’t wait, get it checked!