Florida A&M University approves a 25-year lease with Duke Energy for huge solar power plant

FAMU-Duke Parntnership Robinson

The Florida A&M University (FAMU) Board of Trustees approved a partnership with Duke Energy Florida (DEF) to build a solar facility in Central Florida that will benefit students, faculty, utility customers and Floridians. The Board approved a 25-year lease agreement with DEF. The partnership will provide a new, long-term revenue source at FAMU’s Brooksville Agricultural and Environmental Research Station (BAERS) for the University along with training and educational opportunities for students and members of the local community.

Duke Energy’s Rattler Solar Power Plant could add 74.9 megawatts of clean, renewable power to the grid at BAERS and help further the development and research of solar technologies, plant operations and workforce expansion.

“FAMU strives to be a good neighbor at all times, and like residents of Brooksville and Hernando County, we are concerned about the sustainability of the planet,” said Fred Gainous, Ed.D., who leads the FAMU Brooksville project. “This initiative allows us to use the natural energy source of the sun to power homes, instead of using resources that can be depleted.”

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The solar facility would occupy between 600 and 800 acres of property and feature approximately 270,000 tracking solar panels that will follow the sun’s movement throughout the day, maximizing energy production for customers.

“Making this land available to Duke Energy allows FAMU to accomplish two central objectives: generating revenue for student education and offering the county an alternative source of clean energy,” said FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D. “We look forward to a long and healthy partnership with Duke Energy.”

Once operational, the facility can provide electricity for approximately 23,000 average-sized homes at peak production. All the electricity created from the project will be fed onto the DEF electric grid and delivered to homes, businesses, schools, places of worship and other customers in the area.

The partnership would bring financial and academic benefits to FAMU with a new revenue source by means of lease-payments and through the creation of hands-on experiences for students researching and working with a fully-operational, utility-scale solar power plant connected to the grid.

“Duke Energy is pleased with the Board of Trustees’ decision,” said Tamara Waldmann, Duke Energy Florida Director of Distributed Generation Strategy. She added, “This specific vote will allow Duke Energy to perform a critical next step, which is the evaluation of the FAMU property to determine if the conditions are indeed suitable for solar energy. Meanwhile, Duke Energy is engaging with Hernando County, and we will be engaging community leaders and residents in the coming weeks.”

This investment would also allow DEF the ability to continue exploring innovative, clean energy opportunities with various community partners and expand cost effective, flexible, and dependable utility owned solar for the benefit of all our customers.

Waldmann said the Brooksville solar power plant is part of Duke Energy’s strategic, long-range plan to build or acquire 700 megawatts of solar energy in Florida through 2022.
“Equally important, it supports FAMU and their commitment to renewables, agriculture and sustainability. Building solar power plants in support of our customers and communities is part of our ongoing work to diversify our Company’s resources to offer dependable, emission-free, and smarter energy solutions that our customers value,” said Waldmann.

The agreement will include a due diligence period for site investigation and permitting prior to building a solar project at BAERS.

— Solar Builder magazine

Microsoft Corp. signs 15-year PPA for this 75-MW solar project in North Carolina

Microsoft solar project

Microsoft Corp. and Invenergy are moving ahead with a 74-megawatt solar project in North Carolina, the Wilkinson Solar Energy Center, which will be constructed, owned and operated by Invenergy.

Via the 15-year power purchase agreement, Microsoft will become the sole offtaker of the energy generated at the Wilkinson Solar Energy Center. This represents Microsoft’s fourth power purchase agreement in the PJM Interconnection and will bring Microsoft’s total renewable energy portfolio to more than 1.3 gigawatts.

“When we invest in renewable energy, we are investing in the future — enabling sustainable growth of our business, of the clean energy sector and the local communities that benefit economically from Microsoft’s commitment to sustainability,” said Brian Janous, Microsoft’s general manager of Energy and Sustainability. “Our work with companies like Invenergy is an integral step toward our goal of enabling a clean energy future for everyone. We are pleased our partnership will bring new solar resources to the PJM region.”

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“Invenergy is proud to work with leading corporate renewables customers like Microsoft to help them meet their operational and sustainability goals,” said Jim Shield, Invenergy’s EVP and Chief Commercial Officer. “This investment in North Carolina reflects the increasingly compelling value of solar power for customers to meet their energy needs, while also creating economic development opportunities for local communities.”

The Wilkinson Solar Energy Center is expected to generate $20 million in local economic investment through tax payments, landowner lease payments, and wages and benefits for employees. It is scheduled to begin commercial operation in 2019 and is estimated to create more than 500 jobs during construction.

North Carolina ranks second in installed solar capacity among U.S. states, and with more than 256,620 modules, the Wilkinson Solar Energy Center will be among the largest solar installations in the state.

— Solar Builder magazine

Details on Massachusetts’ largest community solar + storage farm (just completed)

Massachusetts solar storage

Massachusetts’ largest community solar + storage farm has completed construction and is nearing subscriber completion. The 7.1-MW Happy Hollow Community Solar + Storage Farm is built on a gravel pit in Winchendon, Mass., and includes a 3.3-MW energy storage system. The project is owned by SunRaise Investments, developed and constructed by Borrego Solar with CleanChoice Energy managing subscriber services including acquisition, management, customer care, billing, and retention.

“We’re proud to be part of this innovative community solar plus storage farm. This project provides people the opportunity to support clean energy innovation, while reducing their climate impact and saving money on their energy bills,” said Tom Matzzie, CEO of CleanChoice Energy. “Massachusetts continues to be a clean energy leader and this solar farm is a prime example of that leadership delivering benefits to the community.”

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Community solar offers landowners the opportunity to receive additional revenue by leasing their land for solar, while opening the benefits of solar to the hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents that either do not own their own home or do not have a roof that works for solar. The subscribers for this Community Solar Farm can see up to a 10% savings on their utility bills with no upfront investment, setup fees or installation.

Borrego Solar developed, engineered and constructed the project, while SunRaise secured the construction and permanent financing and will remain the long-term owner and operator of the facility. The project is expected to generate 9,000,000 kWh of electricity each year, which is enough energy to power 1,200 average Massachusetts homes for a year.

— Solar Builder magazine

Something to copy: Montecito Fire Protection District Board supports renewable energy-based microgrid

The Montecito, Calif., Fire Protection District Board of Directors unanimously authorized Fire Chief Chip Hickman to draft a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to proceed with Community Microgrid efforts for the Fire Protection District headquarters and fire stations. This Community Microgrid represents the first building block in the Montecito Community Microgrid Initiative, which will bring renewables-driven resilience to Montecito — allowing critical facilities like fire stations, emergency shelters, and critical water and communications infrastructure to remain online indefinitely, even during extended grid outages.

A Community Microgrid is a new approach for designing and operating the electric grid, based on local renewables and other distributed energy resources (DER) like energy storage and demand response. Although linked to the main electric grid, during a power outage a Community Microgrid can isolate from the broader grid and provide indefinite renewables-driven backup power.

The Montecito Community Microgrid Initiative aims to build multiple Community Microgrids in the area, ensuring the continuous operation of critical and priority facilities in the event of future disasters — as well as providing ongoing energy resilience to a broader Santa Barbara region that is served by a single, and highly vulnerable, connection to the high-voltage transmission system, via the Goleta Substation at the top of Glen Annie Road in Goleta.

“We are excited to explore renewable energy opportunities through a Community Microgrid approach that will make the Montecito Fire Department and the community more resilient,” said Fire Chief Chip Hickman. “The Fire Department is all too familiar with the dangers posed by extreme weather events like the Thomas Fire and the subsequent debris flow. This modern energy system will enable us to better serve the Montecito community, as well as provide much-needed redundancy to our essential service.”

“The Montecito Fire Protection District Board’s unanimous approval of drafting an agreement for a Community Microgrid is a major milestone in moving this Initiative forward,” said Craig Lewis, Executive Director of the Clean Coalition. “In casting a vote to move forward, the Board has demonstrated a keen understanding of the unparalleled economic, environmental, and resilience benefits that a Community Microgrid will bring to Montecito.”

The Montecito Community Microgrid Initiative is led by a Steering Committee comprised of dedicated leaders from throughout Montecito, which Judi Weisbart, VP of Community Relations for the World Business Academy, has helped to assemble. Members of the Steering Committee include Diane Boss, Sharon Byrne, Tom Dain, Cindy Feinberg, Julianna Friedman, Berna Kieler, Lee Lysne, Sara Miller McCune, Cheryl Tomchin, and Mike Weissman.

Supporting the Montecito Community Microgrid Initiative is the Kind World Foundation, which created a generous matching grant of $150,000 for the Initiative. In February, the Zegar Family Foundation made a generous donation toward this matching grant, bringing the Initiative within sight of its initial $300,000 fundraising goal. This funding will support the staging of Community Microgrids in Montecito’s Upper Village, which includes aligning stakeholders, performing engineering and economic analyses, and identifying investors to leverage the tax credits that are available to the parties that will own the Community Microgrid assets and sell energy to the sites via power purchase agreements (PPAs). These funds have positioned the Montecito Community Microgrid Initiative for success in bringing economic, environmental, and resilience benefits to Montecito.

— Solar Builder magazine

Texas is getting a NetZero capable community via Francis Solar, Quick Mount PV

quick mount Texas solar

Francis Solar and Quick Mount PV are supplying Texas’s first NetZero Capable Community, Whisper Valley, with equipment to go solar. The supply partnership has helped the 7,500 home Texas community win the Grand Award at the 2019 Green Builder Media Sustainability Awards. The new community is a model for the future of sustainable living with solar generating the electricity needed to power the community’s homes, helping make each home zero energy capable.

Together, Francis Solar and Quick Mount PV will complete the planned community of 7,500 eco-smart homes over the coming years. Each of the Eco-Smart homes will be fitted with the highest quality roof-top solar systems, geothermal technology, NEST, Google Fiber, and other efficient and sustainable technologies. The team at Francis Solar are Quick Mount PV Installer Pros and have been trained to in-stall every system efficiently using best practices in roofing and solar installation.

Quick Mount PV is supplying the complete racking and mounting system consisting of QRail and L-Mount, to ensure that the system will reach the highest standard of waterproofing and quality. Quick Mount PV’s products are industry-leading for code-compliance, waterproofing, and do not void roofing warranties while Quick Mount PV’s system carries a 25-year warranty.

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Francis Solar was chosen by the community developers as the trusted solar provider because of their commitment to designing an attractive, custom system for each home to ensure maximum output and aesthetics. Each completed Eco-Smart Home is built ready for energy storage and electrical vehicle charging when the homeowner decides to take the next steps in Sustainable Energy Ownership.

“We’re proud to partner with Francis Solar to bring high-quality, low-cost solar systems to the first Net-Zero Capable community in Texas. Consumers want solar and this new community delivers it affordably,” said Quick Mount PV’s President Yann Brandt. “Whisper Valley and communities like it offer a glimpse of the future. Soon most new homes will come with solar already installed as standard—allowing home-owners to save money, reduce their energy bills, and help the environment.”


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— Solar Builder magazine