January 15, 2018

Municipal Nonprofit School Solar

Solect and PowerOptions Save Customers More than $20 Million

The budget climate is tough all around, but no where is it as challenging as in nonprofits and municipalities, schools, housing authorities and human services organizations.  As administrators sharpen their pencils and look for ways to trim ever rising operating costs, a large line item calls out for careful scrutiny – energy expenses.  In New England we have some of the highest energy costs in the country, yet many New England states, with Massachusetts at the forefront, also have had the foresight to support renewable energy alternatives -–especially solar. With incentives in place, the calculus of solar energy has caught the attention of non-profit and municipal customers.

At Solect we’re seeing that compelling math prompt an acceleration of solar energy adoption by municipalities, schools and nonprofits across Massachusetts. Working in conjunction with our partner PowerOptions, the region’s largest energy buying consortium exclusively serving nonprofits, Solect has already installed 4.2 megawatts (MW) for various schools, nonprofits and municipalities, and is on track to install another 4.5 MW under the SREC-II program for a total of 8.7MW.

This translates into serious savings for these organizations and institutions.  If we aggregate our current base of installed systems under the Solect & PowerOptions Solar Program, we project we will have saved these institutional, educational and municipal customers more than $20 million over the course of their 20-year agreements. Those are numbers that make administrators sit up and take notice.  The best part is that the savings realized through the program are substantial and translate into funds that can be redirected from an expense line into programs and services that make a real difference in our communities.

How Does it Work?

As nonprofits, municipalities, schools, housing authorities, and human service organizations cannot capture federal tax benefits for renewable energy systems on their own. However, working with PowerOptions and Solect, these customers are able to finance and construct their solar arrays with no up-front investment through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).  Under the PPA, Solect installs, owns and operates the solar arrays, and sells the power generated back to the entity at a reduced, fixed rate for the duration of a 20-year agreement.

What makes the Solect & PowerOptions PPA so attractive for cities, towns, and schools is that they can leverage the RFP Solect won with PowerOptions, and avoid the cost, time and expertise needed to conduct their own RFP.  The Solect &PowerOptions PPA complies with state procurement regulations, and offers outstanding savings and contract terms for the customer.

Almost as valuable as reducing energy costs, the PPA contract provides for fixed costs that allow for more accurate budgeting and planning. It eliminates the frustration of unplanned seasonal spikes and constantly fluctuating electricity costs. In addition to cost predictability and savings, schools, towns and other nonprofits can implement their solar projects without the need for any upfront costs or ongoing maintenance responsibilities.  How attractive is that?

School’s interest in solar is particularly keen. In addition to the benefits outlined above, solar in schools offers a highly relevant teaching tool for STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Math) ProgramsMany schools integrate their system into their teaching curriculums, enabling students to proactively monitor the solar array and make real-world equivalency comparisons on energy saved and environmental benefits achieved.

Currently, Massachusetts ranks fifth nationally in K-12 school solar adoption according to a Nov. 2017 report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and The Solar Foundation. Across the state, more than 260 schools have installed nearly 54MW of solar.

MassSolar projects that 82% of schools in Massachusetts can save money by “going solar” and there is a potential for another 2,000 installations totaling 148 MW. If every school in Massachusetts that could go solar did, an estimated $74 million could be saved over the life of the projects.

MassSolar also reports that 175 cities and towns in Massachusetts host one or more of their own solar projects. The more than 400 municipal projects have a combined capacity of over 340 MW.

Below are some of the towns and organizations who are reaping the benefits of solar energy.

Fitchburg Public Schools

Fitchburg Public Schools installed two rooftop solar systems totaling 603 kilowatts (kW) on its Reingold Elementary School and Memorial Middle School. The savings forecast for both the Reingold Elementary School and the Memorial Middle School is nearly 1 million dollars combined over the term of the agreement. As an early adopter of solar, Fitchburg Public Schools was able to take advantage of the existing state incentive program and maximize their savings without any out of pocket expenses.


Fairhaven Housing Authority

Fairhaven Housing Authority (FHA), a public housing provider, installed a 236 kilowatt (kW) solar energy system on the roof of its largest housing complex. FHA anticipates the array will provide up to 40 percent of the facility’s annual electricity, and projects a $467,000 in savings over the life of the 20-year agreement.


Haverhill City Hall

The City of Haverhill installed a 170 kilowatt (kW) rooftop solar system on its City Hall, and an 80 kW rooftop solar array on the city’s maintenance garage. The installations will allow Haverhill to reduce its energy costs and become more sustainable.  With the installation of the rooftop arrays, the city now expects to save approximately $22,000 annually.


Somerset Berkley

The Somerset Berkley Regional School District installed a 348 kilowatt (kW) solar energy system on the roof of its regional high school. The array is expected to cover up to 20 percent of the school’s annual electricity use, and to save the school approximately $20,000 in year one on its energy expenses. The school anticipates nearly half a million dollars in savings over the term of the agreement, for zero money out of pocket.


MetroWest YMCA

MetroWest YMCA installed a 144 kilowatt (kW) solar energy system on the roof of its Framingham facility. The array consists of 374 photovoltaic (PV) panels, which are projected to produce 154,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy annually. That is enough energy to charge 7,700 electric vehicles or 30,800,000 smart phones annually.  MetroWest YMCA anticipates the array will provide up to 13 percent of its facility’s annual electricity, for a projected yearly savings of more than $10,000.


Solar energy is a tried and true solution that is delivering real value to schools, municipalities, human services organizations and other nonprofits.  Solect takes great pride in the organizations it has helped with its PPA program.  Learn more about how other non-profit and municipalities are deploying solar, and about the specifics of the Solect/PowerOptions PPA.  Experience firsthand the benefits and savings your colleagues have achieved.

Nonprofit Solar Energy