Co-op Power and Smith College Partner to bring Solar to Local Nonprofits

April 25, 2017: Smith College, a long-time member of Co-op Power, is partnering with the Co-op Power's Community Solar team to develop a local solar financing model for local nonprofits. Under this structure, local investors with real estate interests invest in local nonprofit solar projects, helping to use the solar tax incentives and bring down the overall costs for nonprofits. Nonprofits don't qualify for those tax incentives on their own. This innovative model brings the cost savings of solar to the nonprofit community. Smith College was the first nonprofit to sign on through the pilot phase of this program. Co-op Power has partnered with Resonant Energy, PV Squared, All Energy Solar, Solar One, and Grid Alternatives to finance, design, permit and install these systems. The nonprofits locked in an agreement with a starting electricity price at 10% or more below their current electricity rates. As an example, Smith College estimates it will save $28,292 over the next 20 years on its 25 kW pilot and will have the option to purchase the equipment after 10 years. The first group of projects was financed in April of 2017.  The second group is expected in the summer of 2017.

Co-op Power Puts Localist Spin on Clean Energy Economy

Published May 22nd, 2017 by CleanTechnica. Written by by John Farrell. This is part of a series released in October 2016 for Energy Awareness Month highlighting communities and community energy projects on ILSR’s Community Power Map.

That’s precisely what Co-op Power set out to do when it launched in 2002 in Massachusetts, a state recognized as fertile ground for forward-thinking energy policies. But the organization didn’t want to wait for lawmakers to convert clean energy ambitions into action — instead, it adopted a more hands-on approach and started the work itself.

Over nearly 15 years, Co-op Power has implemented practices that promote local ownership and greater community control. Owned by more than 500 members, Co-op Power includes a half-dozen individual energy co-ops in the northeast.

Economic Development through Renewables

Co-op Power has leveraged its expanding membership base to raise more than $320,000 in equity and $840,000 in member loans to support community-oriented clean energy projects, like solar gardens and a solar-fueled hot water system. That doesn’t include $850,000 in local investment that the organization attributes to its work.

The group started with an emphasis on building out the clean energy economy in New England and New York, backing several new companies that fit into a growing market for renewables and energy efficiency. Its stable includes five solar installers and two electrician outfits, along with Energia, an energy efficiency contractor catering to commercial and multifamily properties.

In the past half-decade, Co-op Power estimates, those businesses together created more than 100 jobs. But while that economic development is a cornerstone of its mission, the organization has lately sharpened its focus on power itself.

Projects it supported in recent years include a 30.6 kilowatt rooftop array for Brattleboro Food Co-op in southern Vermont, near the New Hampshire border. Separately, it paved the way for a 3.5 million-gallon-a-year biofuel manufacturing plant in west-central Massachusetts.

Local Power as a Gateway to Savings

Beyond those, it launched a community solar program in 2015. Projects completed as part of that effort provide locally sourced solar power, generated at a single site, to subscribers from the community. To cash in on solar and avoid utilities’ fossil fuel power, they cover a portion of the project’s upfront costs.

A specialized program within Co-op Power’s portfolio sweetens the deal for faith communities in the Boston area. Through its Boston Interfaith Community Solar Project, the organization aims to bring shared solar power to five houses of worship. It will pull from its own coffers to cover start-up costs.

The program lets the faith communities purchase solar power, reducing their monthly electric bills by as much as 20% over two decades. Others in the area can subscribe to the individual projects to capture similar savings.

Plugging Gaps in the Marketplace

A state study in Massachusetts found that direct ownership of a rooftop solar array provides “a substantially higher economic benefit for the homeowner.” But with only about one-quarter of residences suitable for those installations, community solar plugs a significant access gap. It allows people to see savings even when they can’t install panels directly on their rooftops.

After an array links to the grid, the utility credits subscribers for the electricity produced at the site — money that likely stays local — through a process called net metering.

Federal and state incentives, along with net metering, help offset buy-in costs and accelerate payback for subscribers, but understanding what’s in play can be tricky. Plus, the government regulates exactly how solar proponents can raise capital needed to get their projects up and running.

Co-op Power has mapped out complex legal and accounting structures to allow communities to more easily integrate a shared power source, developed in partnership with local solar installers and other groups.

So far, the organization has supported a trio of community solar installations in New York plus one closer to home in Massachusetts — a portfolio expected to grow as policymakers and communities alike embrace the significant growth potential of the clean energy economy.

To learn more about the national movement toward distributed generation and renewables, visit ILSR’s interactive Community Power Map. The tool showcases programming, policies and projects across the U.S., and compares state-by-state performance. Bookmark it and check back for updates.

This article originally posted at ilsr.org. For timely updates, follow John Farrell on Twitter or get the Energy Democracy weekly update.

Rays the Valley Receives a Solar in Your Community DOE Award

Local Organizations Win a $60,000 US DOE Award to Bring Solar to Local Low and Middle Income Residents and Nonprofits

April 25, 2017, Northampton MA- A collaborative project of local organizations including Community Action, Co-op Power, Climate Action Now, and Mothers Out Front, aims to provide people with limited resources and nonprofits the ability to participate in the solar revolution.  Dubbed ‘Rays the Valley’, the project has just been awarded a U.S. Dept of Energy seed grant to develop community solar electricity projects to benefit local low/moderate income households and nonprofit organizations that have not heretofore been able to benefit from solar electricity in Hampshire and Franklin counties. Saul Perlmutter from Climate Action Now says, “Solar is an important part of our energy future and we don’t want to leave anyone behind.”

The team will participate in the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative’s Solar in Your Community Challenge, a national competition that aims to expand solar electricity access.  Over the next 18 months, Rays the Valley will develop innovative projects to enable low and moderate income households and local nonprofits in Hampshire and Franklin Counties to go solar.  Rays the Valley will join teams from around the country to compete for $1 million in final prizes, which will be awarded by judges based on each project or program’s innovation, impact, and replicability.

Rays the Valley plans to first build a 400 kW array on the roof of a local privately owned building in National Grid territory and offer direct-ownership solar shares to 100 low and moderate income households to lower their electric bills. They will develop other sites for another 1.1 megawatts of solar projects to similarly benefit people with limited resources. Rays the Valley will also build a megawatt of solar arrays on buildings owned by nonprofit organizations to lower their electric bills.  In total, the project will provide 2.5 megawatts clean power into the grid at times of peak demand, thus benefitting all electric customers.

Adele Franks of Climate Action Now emphasized “We need to transition to clean, renewable energy as quickly as possible, in a way that benefits everyone in our community.  This grant gives national recognition to our local commitment to bring about energy efficiency and 100% renewable energy in an equitable way.”

Rays the Valley is now signing up low and moderate income households and nonprofits interested in receiving the benefits of solar electricity, and local municipal governments interested in participating as partners in Hampshire and Franklin Counties. They are also looking for good sites for shared solar arrays.  Interested parties should contact Co-op Power at (413) 772-8898.  Public forums to explain the program will be offered in coming months.

Community Action Director, Clare Higgins, added “We are so happy to have a way for people with lower or moderate incomes to have greener energy through access to affordable solar power." 

Lynn Benander of Co-op Power said “Projects initiated with the help of this funding will spawn many other similar projects in our region. We are very excited to partner with Community Action, Climate Action Now, and Mothers Out Front to build out these important solar projects in our region. It’s important that people with limited resources and nonprofits have access to the same electricity savings that others have had access to for years. The time is right for this model to take off.”

About Rays the Valley partners:

Co-op Power is a consumer-owned energy cooperative dedicated to building a just and sustainable energy future. They use innovative ownership and financing models to bring clean energy to all.

Community Action is the community action program serving Hampshire and Franklin Counties, helping 7,500 low-income households cover their energy costs. The program works to reduce energy consumption, improve heating systems, and help pay a portion of fuel and utility bills.

Climate Action Now is a grassroots organization in the Pioneer Valley comprised of 2500 activists devoted to preserving a livable climate for all people.

Mothers out Front Pioneer Valley is a chapter of a national organization dedicated to creating a healthy climate now and a livable future for all children.  

About the Solar in Your Community Challenge

The Solar in Your Community Challenge, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative and administered by SUNY Polytechnic Institute, is a $5 million prize competition that aims to expand solar access to low and moderate income households; and state, local, and tribal governments; and nonprofit organizations.

More information about the selected teams and the Solar in Your Community Challenge is at www.solarinyourcommunity.org

About the SunShot Initiative

The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative is a national effort to drive down the cost of solar electricity and support solar adoption. SunShot aims to make solar energy a low cost electricity source for all Americans through research and development efforts in collaboration with public and private partners. Learn more at energy.gov/sunshot.

 Watch their video!

Institute for Local Self Reliance Podcast: Cooperative Values Drive Solar Growth

In New England, Cooperative Values Drive Solar Growth – Episode 41 of Local Energy Rules Podcast

New England offers some of the nation’s biggest incentives for renewable energy generation, but high upfront costs and complicated financing mean many residents are still missing out on the opportunity to go solar. But one cooperative, with a series of pioneering programs, is beginning to change that.

Co-op Power, headquartered in Massachusetts, has steadily built up its credentials over the past decade. In a significant milestone, it mounted a $4.3 million community-based fundraising campaign for a biodiesel plant set to go online early next year. It has supported hundreds of rooftop solar installations, and fueled the region’s green job growth.

 

 

Nonprofit Partnership Provides Low-Cost Solar Power for Multifamily Affordable Housing in New York City

Nazareth Housing Lower East Side shelter is first to adopt reduced-cost solar with zero-down financing

New York, NY, December 15, 2016 - Solar One, GRID Alternatives Tri-State and Co-op Power today announced the launch of Affordable Solar New York. The nonprofit initiative will bring low- cost solar power to affordable housing providers in New York, which provide critical housing and services to low-income residents. Solar can significantly reduce energy costs for both operators and tenants, yet up-front costs, credit scores and complex financing remain significant barriers for this sector to access the technology.

Affordable Solar New York will address these barriers by providing no-cost technical assistance, reduced-cost installation and zero-down financing options to Housing Development Fund Corporation cooperatives and other affordable housing providers in New York City. Projects will include both job training and energy efficiency education opportunities for residents.

"To reach Mayor de Blasio’s landmark OneNYC vision for a more sustainable, equitable, and resilient New York City, all New Yorkers will need the ability to tap into the cost and energy saving benefits that solar energy can provide," said Mark Chambers, Director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. “I applaud Solar One, GRID Alternatives, and Co-op Power on the launch of Affordable Solar New York, an important step toward a more inclusive energy landscape in New York City.”

Affordable Solar New York’s inaugural project is with Nazareth Housing, a supportive housing organization that serves vulnerable New Yorkers on the Lower East Side and promotes housing stability and economic independence among low-income families and individuals in New York City. Solar One and GRID Alternatives provided technical assistance for the project, which will be installed by GRID Alternatives in early 2017 through its unique workforce development model, and financed through Co-op Power’s innovative financing. The solar electric system will provide more than 80% of the building’s annual common area electricity and is projected to save the organization 30% on its overall electricity costs over the system’s 25 year life, savings that will allow Nazareth Housing to better serve its constituents.

"For nearly 35 years, Nazareth Housing has creatively endeavored to develop sustainable, affordable housing in the Lower East Side and the Bronx,” said Michael Callaghan, Executive Director of Nazareth Housing. “I am truly pleased that our building will be the inaugural solar project of Affordable Solar New York. Being in a flood zone that was significantly impacted by

superstorm Sandy, solar capacity brings environmental and fiscal benefits, while also helping us build resiliency for the future."

Through Affordable Solar New York, the partners plan to develop and install a number of multifamily affordable solar projects in 2017 and facilitate dozens more through technical assistance. The initiative dovetails with new state funding for low-income solar announced last week by Governor Cuomo, which could further reduce costs for housing providers.

Affordable housing providers and Housing Development Fund cooperatives interested in solar technical assistance can visit www.affordablesolarny.org to get started.

Affordable Solar New York is made possible by The JPB Foundation through its support of GRID Alternatives’ multifamily program, and The Kresge Foundation, The 11th Hour Project, a program of The Schmidt Family Foundation, Rosin Fund of The Scherman Foundation, and The Mertz Gilmore Foundation for their generous support of Solar One. Nazareth Housing was connected with Affordable Solar New York through Solarize LES, a community campaign supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

About the Partners

Solar One, a leading environmental nonprofit organization in New York City, was founded in 2004 and runs diverse programming including K-12 environmental education, green workforce training and technical assistance programs that help building owners adopt clean energy solutions. Here Comes Solar is Solar One’s program that facilitates solar adoption in hard-to- serve markets by assisting building owners to identify and implement cost-effective solar projects. Since 2014 Here Comes Solar has helped more than 100 NYC buildings adopt solar.

GRID Alternatives Tri-State is an affiliate of GRID Alternatives, America’s largest nonprofit solar installer bringing clean energy technology and job training to underserved communities. GRID has installed more than 8,000 solar electric systems for affordable single- and multifamily homes to-date, and trained over 29,000 people. GRID Alternatives Tri-State serves New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Co-op Power is a consumer-owned energy cooperative with multi-race, multi-class membership across New England and New York dedicated to creating a just and sustainable future through local ownership of energy resources. They have financed a number of large renewable energy projects throughout the Northeast and are committed to expanding access to renewable energy among affordable and cooperative housing.

Contacts:

Noah Ginsburg, Solar One 347-509-6044, noah@solar1.org

Michael Moomjy, GRID Alternatives 212-549-3996, mmoomjy@gridalternatives.org

Isaac Baker, Co-op Power 413-522-9981, isaac@cooppower.coop

Six Foundations for Building Community Resilience

Post Carbon Institute Report by Daniel Lerch

Efforts to build community resilience often focus on growing the capacity to “bounce back” from disruptions, like those caused by climate change. But climate change is not the only crisis we face, nor is preparing for disruption the only way to build resilience. Truly robust community resilience should do more. It should engage and benefit all community members, and consider all the challenges the community faces—from rising sea levels to a lack of living wage jobs. And it should be grounded in resilience science, which tells us how complex systems—like human communities—can adapt and persist through changing circumstances. Six Foundations for Building Community Resilience describes how communities can approach the full scope of the 21st century’s challenges equitably and sustainably.