Arizona utility launches program to install solar on customer houses at no cost

APS Arizona utility

Arizona utility APS has launched a new program, APS Solar Communities, to make renewable energy more accessible. Designed specifically for limited- and moderate-income customers, APS Solar Communities approved participants agree to have a rooftop solar system installed at no cost. Customers then begin receiving a monthly $30 bill credit from APS while contributing to the company’s 50 percent clean-energy portfolio. APS serves about 2.7 million people in 11 of Arizona’s 15 counties, and is the Southwest’s foremost producer of clean, safe and reliable electricity.

APS is collaborating with Arizona-based solar installers Arizona Solar Concepts, Discover Energy Solutions, Harmon Solar, Sunny Energy and Southface Solar on this program to put rooftop solar systems on qualifying customers’ residences. The systems will be maintained by APS – an approach modeled on the APS Solar Partner program and designed during the company’s 2016 rate review process. Participating single-family residential customers will receive $360 per year in monthly bill credits for 20 years, saving $7,200 per household during the life of the program.

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“Our customers, community and economy, deserve innovative energy programs, and that’s exactly what Solar Communities delivers,” said Marc Romito, APS Director of Customer Technology. “With an investment of $10 million to $15 million per year for the next three years, we look forward to seeing some of our customers, who otherwise wouldn’t have access to solar, receive the benefits of renewable energy.”

Who qualifies?

The Solar Communities program will install solar systems on single-family houses with west- and southwest-facing roofs, which offer the greatest potential to generate energy during the late-afternoon and early-evening hours between 3 and 8 p.m. when customers use the most electricity.

“The solar panels installed under this program will be facing southwest and west to produce energy when customers need it most,” said Kent Walter, APS Manager of Customer Technology. “This program also will help us conduct research on integrating more renewable energy without compromising reliability. Solar Communities creates an option for more customers to go solar, while generating new projects for our local installation partners bringing positives on many levels.”

To qualify for APS Solar Communities, single-family households must be certified limited-income (at or below 200 percent of federal poverty level), or moderate-income (below 100 percent of median household income in Arizona). Other qualifying factors include roof size, orientation and structural integrity to accommodate a system. The size of residential systems will range from 4 to 8 kilowatts.

— Solar Builder magazine

C-PACE financing for solar, efficiency projects now approved in Delaware

Delaware PACE bill

Delaware Governor John Carney signed Senate Bill 113 into law on Wednesday, enabling Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) financing in Delaware. Once implemented, PACE will offer a new method for financing commercial energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Governor Carney praised the bill’s potential impact on Delaware, “By offering another method of financing for energy efficiency projects, PACE will help Delaware further our goals to improve economic development, lower energy costs and reduce greenhouse emissions.”

The Governor was joined by Senator Harris McDowell, Representative Trey Paradee, Representative Debra Heffernan, New Castle County Executive Matthew Meyer, and Public Advocate Andrew Slater, as well as supporters of sustainability and clean energy in Delaware.

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Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) is a voluntary and innovative way to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects on commercial properties. PACE loans are funded by private lenders and are paid back through a voluntary assessment on the property’s county tax bill.

PACE has proven successful nationally in promoting the growth of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Delaware’s PACE legislation was crafted with input from various stakeholders, including national experts, and has received broad support from the business community. With the signing of SB113, Delaware joins the ranks of the 34 other states that have signed PACE enabling legislation. The Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility (DESEU) will serve as the administrator of the PACE program.

The PACE program will be up and running in the first quarter of 2019.

— Solar Builder magazine

Wells Fargo commits $5 million to GRID Alternatives’ Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund

Wells Fargo tribal solar funding

Wells Fargo is committing $5 million over three years to support solar projects in tribal communities across the U.S. The donation to nonprofit GRID Alternatives, a national leader in making solar technology and training accessible to underserved communities, supports the founding of GRID’s new Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund. The fund is an extension of GRID’s National Tribal Program and aims to catalyze the growth of solar energy and expand solar job opportunities on tribal lands.

“Many tribes are looking to renewable energy to address both environmental and economic challenges in their communities,” said Adam Bad Wound, Vice President of Development for GRID Alternatives. “Access to funding is often the biggest barrier to achieving their goals, and we’re excited to be able to partner with even more tribes to move their solar PV projects forward.”

Support for the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund is a significant component of Wells Fargo’s $50 million philanthropic commitment to help address the unique economic, social, and environmental needs of American Indian/Alaska Native communities that was announced last year. Wells Fargo has been a major supporter of GRID’s state- and national-level programming since 2012.

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GRID Alternatives’ national Tribal Program has worked since 2010 to help tribes achieve their renewable energy goals with solar, while training tribal members to enter the solar workforce. GRID has installed nearly 3 MW of solar capacity in partnership with more than 40 tribes to date. The new fund will expand GRID’s work and provide much-needed capital to support the development of new projects around the U.S.

“Our strong relationships in Indian Country and with our Native American customers are a point of great pride at our company,” said Mary Wenzel, head of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Wells Fargo. “We are pleased to have such an effective working relationship with GRID Alternatives and to provide the seed funding for its Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund. We sincerely believe that providing no-cost solar and job-training opportunities in tribal communities will address critical needs and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

The Spokane Tribe in Wellpinit, Washington, will be the first to benefit from the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund, with a grant that will unlock third-party investment capital and $1 million in matching funds from the Department of Energy for a 637 kilowatt solar project. When complete, the project will provide clean power and reduced energy bills for 14 tribal buildings, including elder housing, community facilities and tribal administrative offices.

“After a near disaster during the 2016 Cayuse Mountain Fire, the Tribe now places a premium on energy self-sufficiency,” said Tim Horan, Executive Director of the Spokane Indian Housing Authority. “We expect solar to play a big role in helping us achieve this, and the grant from the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund was the last piece of the puzzle to make our first big project happen. We’re grateful to Wells Fargo and GRID Alternatives.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Nautilus Solar acquires community solar portfolio from Clean Energy Collective

Nautilus Solar

Nautilus Solar Energy LLC, has acquired a 13.5 MWdc community solar portfolio from Clean Energy Collective (CEC), the nation’s leading developer of community solar solutions.

This community solar portfolio is made up of projects in Massachusetts, where the offtake is with qualified commercial subscribers, and New York, where the offtake is with 100% qualified residential subscribers. The projects have begun construction, with some projects near completion, and all of the projects are expected to be online by the end of 2018.

“In addition to furthering our goal of deploying early-stage development capital for our partners, this transaction marks our entry into New York’s rapidly expanding community solar marketplace,” added Jeffrey Cheng, COO of Nautilus Solar.

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Similar to previous transactions between the companies, CEC provided customer acquisition, project development and construction management services. Nautilus, through its full-service platform, provided early-stage development capital and will be responsible for long-term asset management services and maintenance for the project. The projects will be owned by an affiliate of the Virgo Investment Group, which is also a minority shareholder of Nautilus.

The energy generated by the multisite portfolio directly benefits subscribers by providing energy bill savings while also advancing their renewable energy goals. Most importantly, the subscriber experience will benefit from Nautilus’s expertise in community solar acquisition and asset management, combined with CEC’s ability to deliver quality customer service along with real-time production and savings information.

— Solar Builder magazine

Meet Fellowship Energy, a company financing solar systems for faith-based organizations

St Stephens progress

St. Stephens project in progress.

Sustainability is often an important aspect of a faith-based community’s mission, but churches, parochial schools and other nonprofits have been left out of the solar revolution due to their inability to take advantage of federal solar tax incentives and other challenges. Places of worship was one segment highlighted in this NREL look at solar potential in low-income areas, and a new entrant in the clean energy finance space, Fellowship Energy, wants to develop solutions to address religious organizations and parochial schools specifically. Its first solar installation for a faith-based community in Richmond, Virginia, was part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Program.

The project provides St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, one of the largest Episcopal churches in the United States, with a 50-kW rooftop PV system that produces an estimated 65 MWh annually of clean energy – enough to supply 14 percent of the church’s electrical load. Fellowship Energy’s finance solution allows St. Stephen’s to go solar with no upfront cost, realize an immediate reduction in utility bills and improve cash flow while actively participating in the creation of a more sustainable future.

“Funds that are freed up from often sizeable utility bills can go to serve the community and causes that these organizations support,” notes Philip Kwait, founder and CEO of Fellowship Energy. “Making these dollars available for community service is the real benefit of Fellowship Energy’s efforts. These are the real customers we seek to serve.”

Virginia-based solar developer Performance Solar provided design and installation services for the project. Other local firms involved include Excel Electric as master electrician, responsible for permitting, installation and testing, and Advanced Engineering for structural review.

— Solar Builder magazine