Puerto Rico rebuild: Solar, efficiency projects underway at San Juan’s largest market

solar helps

Solar installation and energy efficiency upgrades at the Plaza del Mercado de Río Piedras in San Juan, Puerto Rico, are underway, according to officials from The Solar Foundation, the Clinton Foundation and the municipality of San Juan. The Plaza del Mercado de Río Piedras in San Juan is the largest produce market on the island, responsible for the livelihoods of 200 small business owners. Since Hurricane Maria, the energy situation has led to an unstable business environment, product losses, and fewer customers for these vendors.

The Hispanic Federation and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy have committed two grants totaling $1.1 million in funding for the project, which will also include installation of solar panels and batteries for the market. This work, being undertaken through the Solar Saves Lives initiative led by The Solar Foundation and the Clinton Foundation, is being done at the request of, and in close coordination with, the Municipality of San Juan. In addition, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy grant creates an apprenticeship program for local workers to learn skills related to solar installation, roofing, and electrical work, which will help promote local workforce development.

“Time of crisis call for us to reach out and forge alliances to pull resources together and achieve a common goal,” said San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. “We are honored that the Clinton Foundation and The Solar Foundation have been instrumental in galvanizing this much need donation which will lead the way in transforming the largest produce market in San Juan and Puerto Rico. Having access to solar energy will ensure dozens of small business owners will not to be hostage to an unreliable electrical infrastructure. The way of the future is made possible today by those that believe we are all entitled to better life.”

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The first phase includes the installation of 700 units of LED lighting in the market. In the coming months, future phases will include the installation of 250-kW of solar panels on the market; a 475-kWh battery to help the market operate in the event of interruptions to the grid; and additional energy efficiency upgrades.

“This effort is directly helping the people of the Rio Piedras community – making the market more resilient against future hurricanes, while also more sustainable and less reliant on energy from fossil fuels,” said Kevin Thurm, CEO of the Clinton Foundation. “We acknowledge and appreciate the generosity of the Hispanic Federation and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, the coordination of Mayor Cruz and the municipality of San Juan, and the work of all our partners through the Solar Saves Lives initiative. This project is a clear example of the progress we can make when philanthropy, business, and government work together.”

Since the initial announcement, the Clinton Foundation and The Solar Foundation have worked in close coordination with Mayor Cruz and the Municipality to carry out site assessments and finalize the planning and project management for initial phases of the project. As the damage to the market has been fully assessed, the cost and size of the project has become greater than initially anticipated. With the widespread devastation not only from Hurricane Maria but also from the 2017 hurricane season more broadly, there has been great regional demand for philanthropic support which has made securing funding for specific projects more challenging.

“This project combines so many efforts to support the Río Piedras community – driving economic development, lowering energy consumption, empowering small businesses, and promoting sustainability and resiliency,” said José Calderón, President of the Hispanic Federation. “These types of installations are a perfect example of the types of investments we need to make in Puerto Rico’s future, and the Hispanic Federation is excited to be supporting this incredibly important effort to install solar equipment and energy efficiency upgrades at the Río Piedras Market.”

These installations will be done by New Energy, and facilitated by The Solar Foundation, the Clinton Foundation, and Operation Blessing through the Solar Saves Lives initiative, a joint program formed in the wake of last year’s devastating hurricane season to coordinate the delivery and installation of solar and battery storage equipment to areas of urgent need. New Energy is providing the materials and labor for installation at cost.

— Solar Builder magazine

Greenskies Renewable Energy completes two community solar projects in Colorado

colorado

Greenskies Renewable Energy LLC, a Clean Focus company, in partnership with Black Hills Energy, has completed two community solar gardens in Southern Colorado. The projects will distribute clean, renewable energy to Colorado subscribers.

Greenskies will maintain and operate the solar gardens, and Clean Focus Yield Limited will own the systems as part of its large portfolio of commercial, industrial, small utility, and community solar projects. The projects went on-line in August 2018, and they can power more than 600 homes for an entire year.

Posada Pueblo, a nonprofit subscriber to the community solar garden in Rocky Ford, provides housing and support services for the homeless in Pueblo County. “Posada is happy to partner on a project that will reduce costs for low-income rate payers and allow Posada to put more money into programs and services for the homeless families, Veterans, and youth that we serve,” stated Kim Bowman, Executive Director of Posada.

Check out the 2018 Solar Builder Projects of the Year!

The ground-mount projects reside in Rocky Ford and Ordway, Colorado. The fully-subscribed community solar gardens provide renewable energy to local homeowners, non-profit organizations and businesses unable to install their own solar systems. Subscribers save money on their energy costs by participating in the community solar program. By choosing to receive power from the community solar gardens instead of the utility, subscribers receive credits on their BHE utility bill.

“As Chairman of the Pueblo Urban Renewal Authority I want to offer my congratulations to the communities of Rocky Ford and Ordway for their foresight and commitment to their communities in creating community solar gardens in their communities,” stated Don Banner, Chairman, Pueblo Urban Renewal Authority. “These leading edge solar facilities will provide significant renewable energy for the benefit of the businesses and citizens of Rocky Ford and Crowley County. These projects could not have been done without the cooperation of Clean Focus and Black Hills Energy. Special thanks to both of these companies for their assistance in making this happen.”

These projects are part of Black Hills Energy commitment to bring more renewable energy to Southern Colorado. The two Colorado community solar gardens are expected to produce 5,124,400 kWh of clean energy annually, saving 3,814 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. The two projects offset the environmental impact of 429,129 gallons of gasoline or nearly 817 cars each year.

“The Rocky Ford and Crowley County community solar projects provide clean, lower-cost energy to local housing authorities, schools, community colleges, and city governments. They enable local ratepayers to benefit from solar without any equipment on their roofs or property. We are pleased to add these two projects to our large portfolio of commercial, small utility, and community solar projects. We look forward to a long relationship with the subscribers over the lifetime of the projects,” said Stanley Chin, President and CEO of Greenskies and Clean Focus.

— Solar Builder magazine

Semper Solaris is giving back to military veterans by donating solar systems via Semper Cares Initiative

Semper Solaris

Semper Solaris announced the the Semper Cares Initiative “Project Charlie” installation, where the company and program partners including Panasonic Eco Solutions of North America donated and installed a complete solar system to San Diego military veteran Paul Dugas.

“Community contribution is a core pillar of the Panasonic business philosophy, and our team is grateful to be of service to Mr. Dugas in recognition of everything he’s given to our country”

In collaboration with Fox 5 San Diego, Semper Solaris put out a call to the local community to nominate deserving military heroes to be the beneficiary of Project Charlie. Like many veterans, Paul Dugas has faced a series of challenges over the past few years, including several health issues that have affected his personal and professional life. Paul was nominated by his neighbor, who introduced Semper Solaris to Paul’s story and his faithful military service. Paul was selected as the Project Charlie beneficiary on October 8, 2018.

Project Charlie is Semper Solaris’ third installment of the Semper Cares Initiative, following the successful completion of Projects Alpha and Bravo. Semper Solaris is deeply connected to its military roots, and as a veteran and former Marine Captain, company co-founder Kelly Shawhan is passionate about giving back to the veteran community.

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“Semper Solaris is proud to launch Project Charlie as the third installment of the Semper Cares Initiative, which truly represents the heart of our organization: supporting deserving U.S. veterans and heroes in need,” said Kelly Shawhan, co-owner, Semper Solaris. “We are more than honored to be a part of Paul’s story, and every team member on this project is living the spirit of what Semper Cares is all about. Today, it’s not about earning a paycheck, but about helping fellow Americans and disabled vets, and the community supporting each other. The love surrounding this project is palpable.”

To complete Project Charlie, Semper Solaris provided logistics support, analysis and permitting, as well as installation personnel, labor, and hardware, securing support from industry partners to obtain the remaining parts needed for the project. Semper Cares Initiative has received tremendous support from local and national charitable groups, as well as from the company’s suppliers and contractors.

Companies including Panasonic Eco Solutions of North America have donated tens of thousands of dollars in material to Semper Cares Initiative projects to date and have committed to supporting future Semper Cares’ projects. After hearing Paul’s story, Panasonic agreed to donate a 5Kw solar power system to support the Project Charlie installation.

“Community contribution is a core pillar of the Panasonic business philosophy, and our team is grateful to be of service to Mr. Dugas in recognition of everything he’s given to our country,” said David Lopez, Solar Division West Coast Group Manager, Panasonic Eco Solutions North America. “We sincerely hope the new solar system provides much deserved relief now, and for many years to come. The Semper Cares Initiative is honorable work and we look forward to continuing to support the Semper Solaris team in their passionate dedication to the veteran community.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar Builder 2018 Gold Project of the Year: Cuyahoga County Landfill

Gold Project of the Year

The 2018 Gold Project of the Year is a monument to solar energy as a true local product. The developers are located in state. Over 80 percent of the construction and installation labor was in state. Even the foundations, racking and modules were manufactured in state. But I suppose that’s not too surprising for a mature solar-focused state like *checks notes* Ohio.

Wait, what the …

The Remake by the Lake

County Officials Inspect Cuyahoga County Landfill Solar Project installed by Conti Solar-001

▲ Mike Foley, director of sustainability for Cuyahoga County (left) and Armond Budish, Cuyahoga County executive (right), stroll their site.

Cuyahoga County Landfill | Brooklyn, Ohio | 4 MW

Yes, you read that correctly: Solar Builder’s 2018 Gold Project of the Year is located in Brooklyn, Ohio, a state not known for prioritizing solar development. The cost of energy is still low in Ohio, and the powers that be aren’t too motivated to pursue a different energy mix either. The SREC market in the state, for example, is currently trading at $5.

The mindset is starting to change, at least in Northeast Ohio. Just last month the City of Cleveland declared a commitment to powering itself with 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Cuyahoga County took its first step toward this new energy future in 2015 by creating a department of sustainability. Finally having this department meant an ambitious developer now had a place to bring solar project proposals.

Cut to Youngstown, Ohio-based developer Enerlogics Solar, which was turning its attention away from offshore wind and toward solar, specifically turning brownfield sites into renewable energy. Enerlogics started discussions with various entities including the Cuyahoga Land Bank to develop urban solar projects, which led them to where our story starts: Attorneys Michael Wise and Chad Arfons at McDonald Hopkins, working with Enerlogics, meeting with director of sustainability Mike Foley.

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“They said ‘we have a client interested in landfill solar projects, and there’s a couple sites we’re looking at.’ We were also working on the LEEDCo offshore wind project at the time, and one day we thought ‘what if we bundled these together?’” Foley says.

With this being one of the new department’s first major projects, Foley “didn’t want to get criticized for buying overly expensive power” when he first took this proposal to council review. The project outcome was easy to pitch: It is expected to save the county $3 million over 25 years, offsetting about 7 or 8 percent of the load for 14 county buildings. But getting there would involve an almost unprecedented level of regulatory and financial complexity.
Let’s start with the end structure: The City of Brooklyn owns the landfill and is leasing it to IGS Solar, a 20-year deal. Cleveland Public Power (CPP) is buying the power produced by the solar array on the site and is then reselling it to the county. The county is then providing that power to those 14 buildings. A three-party agreement is complex and nontraditional on its own, but getting there was rife with unique problems.

Problem 1: Service territories

First order of business for the county was changing energy providers from the large investor-owned utility to CPP in order to structure a long-term PPA. Unfortunately, the selected site was not actually in CPP territory. To make it work, the utility agreed to build a power line extension from a nearby substation and bring the landfill into its territory.

Problem 2: PPA regulations

The story of this PPA alone is enough for a novel, but here’s our best summary: The utility and city agreed that a third-party owned PPA was the best route to go. As Foley says it: “Having that third-party investor-owner helps reduce the costs of the total project for us.” However, Ohio restricts counties to signing 10-year power agreements, making the standard 20- or 25-year PPA impossible. This gets back to the state not prioritizing renewable energy development. After some lengthy negotiating, the PPA was structured as a 10-year deal with an option for another 10 years and a chance to purchase it outright after year six. Getting this all approved was way more difficult than it sounds.

Problem 3: Surprise tax code change

IGS Solar was brought into the deal in summer of 2017 to own the asset and finish the development. A subsidiary of IGS Energy, one of the largest retail energy providers in the country, IGS Solar is familiar with entering at any phase of development but does like to enter into the fray when there are some negotiable points of the contract still in place but not finalized. The most enticing part of the deal to IGS was the county budgeted funds to put forward as a prepayment for the electricity at the time of commissioning.

Cuyahoga County solar landfill

The utility had to agree to build a power line extension from a nearby substation and bring the landfill into its territory. Photo from Enerlogics.

“We were excited because it was Ohio, first and foremost,” says Patrick Smith, VP of IGS Solar, which is located in Dublin, Ohio. “Our parent company serves a lot of customers here but hadn’t had any real meaningful solar development in the state, so this was an opportunity to make a big impact statewide, and the complexity was interesting for us.”
Cut to November 2017 when Trump finalized the tax code revisions. One of the revisions was a small thing regarding — you guessed it — the tax structure for energy sold through a prepayment. Effective Jan. 1, 2018, this key part of the deal would be gone, and Smith indicated to us that removing the prepayment would have put this project in jeopardy.

“The project was high risk if it went into the next calendar year,” Smith says. “We spent a lot of time as a team between all of the parties — we had about six weeks to finalize it from when the ruling came out to make the deadline.”
The stakeholders hustled over the next six weeks, with several public officials working voluntarily during their winter vacation to get this deal finalized and signed on Dec. 30, 2018, just beating the deadline.

“This project was made possible because of a public-private partnership with so many parties, during a really tough time to be working,” Smith says. “With good communication and getting everyone to the table, these deals can be put together so everyone wins.”

By the time we get to the construction of the actual project itself, everything seems tame, especially for Conti Solar, which has more than 130 MW of landfill solar experience (about 20 percent of its installed capacity).

“From a size and technical perspective, this project fell right in our sweet spot,” says Chris Ichter, business development manager for Conti Solar. “We always try to use local labor and equipment where possible, and there was a really big push from the county to do just that. The only regional issue we encountered was the weather in the beginning and by working diligently we were able to make the most out of the dry days. We had to be careful to not disturb the landfill cap and only use equipment with tracks unless otherwise approved by the EPA.”

At that point Ichter pauses and notes, “The construction of the project went extremely smooth. This wasn’t about challenges Conti faced, this was about the challenges of penciling a project in Ohio.”

Muni model

Editor’s Note: Solar Builder is based in Ohio, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pulling for this one to get the most votes from our readers. I also hoped that when it did win, the story here would be about the oncoming wave of solar developments in the state. Like Cleveland Browns offseason excitement, my dreams were squashed immediately. The tale you’ve just read of the Brooklyn landfill feels anomalous — a project of perseverance and good timing and not a harbinger of similar deals to come.

Or, is it? Let’s look at the details again.

Remember that a key in the initial development was finding a suitable site that could serve the county’s buildings. When that perfect site was found, it wasn’t connected to any customer load and was not within the service territory of the utility that needed to deliver it. This could have killed the deal, but it didn’t. Instead the county switched to CPP, which was willing to get its hands dirty (or clean, in this case) and find a solution to build a connection and bring the array into its service territory.

“We think there is a good future for these kind of projects when there’s a partnership with the end-users, the municipality and solar developer,” Smith says. “Cases where the utility participates in a project is critical. We give a lot of credit to CPP for getting involved. For any other munis that want to get involved, this is a great model.”
Smith noted that municipal utilities are the key because large investor-owned utilities “don’t have the structure in place in Ohio to allow for virtual PPAs to be set up.”

“Munis are increasingly educated and motivated to make use of land that’s otherwise been unused, and we see them increasingly educated and motivated to do more renewables within their footprint,” he says. “Municipalities that also have control of the grid and are not served by investor-owned utilities are the ones that are near term best suited for these types of projects because they can help craft the rules or structure in which the power is delivered.”

The prepayment was another crucial part of the deal that is now no longer viable, but Foley is unconcerned about that hurting future deals: “I don’t think you need the prepayment. When we started this off, we were thinking pre-purchase was important because we needed to find a developer who would really want to do this because there are way more projects in the world to make money on and electricity is so cheap here in Ohio. We did pre-purchase to guarantee that it would get funded. But I think that the financing models and investment core out there is more mature now. Others should be fine.”

Another key early in the development process was Enerlogics securing site control with the City of Brooklyn and running a competitive RFP process for the EPC activity.

“Utilizing a competitive process for the EPC early in the development helped reduce project risk and ensured price certainty around the PPA structure,’ says Scott Ameduri, president of Enerlogics. “Additionally, early selection of our EPC partner Conti allowed the development team to work proactively to manage risk and optimize the system design to meet the needs of all stakeholders. As an example, early EPC selection provided certainty on system sizing and cost and allowed the county to consider the inclusion of Ohio content under a higher PPA rate.”

This deal is customized to the parties involved, but Enerlogics remains “bullish on solar, particularly in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“We continue to find ways to drive greater economic value for our clients, to include solar and solar+storage, as well as other behind the meter operational activities such as demand response and energy efficiency,” Ameduri says.

IGS is looking at other projects in that market where they can leverage an existing structure to make more projects work for other off-takers using the same approach. Smith sees other landfill projects working economically in Ohio, “they just need longer terms — 20- and 25-year.”

That state regulation is still a barrier, but Foley and his department have been busy since their inception taking notes of barriers like the short-term PPA regulation and drafting bills to try and affect change. The past doesn’t have to be prologue here, and having this one project in place, one that made it through against stacked odds, will help the case for other deals once it starts producing.

The Brooklyn blueprint

We can’t overlook the poetic undertone of this project: Cleveland, a city forever haunted by the ghosts of a polluted river catching fire in the ‘70s, reused unusable, polluted land for the purposes of providing renewable energy to its city buildings. Not only that, but the city made sure that at least 80 percent of the workforce came from Ohio, plus the racking and foundations (RBI Solar) and the modules (First Solar) were all supplied within state borders. Not even a California project can always match that level of local involvement.

“We need to ramp this up as much as possible, so we’re using this as an example,” Foley says. “This took us a long time, but we have good PPA documents and energy service contracts, and we are making them available if other places in the county are interested in using the example.”

The last thing Smith said during our interview was “This is the most exciting project I’ve ever been a part of,” and as unabashed Ohioans, we echo that sentiment.

Head here to see other 2018 Project of the Year winners.

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar Builder 2018 Silver Project of the Year: Annapolis Renewable Energy Park

solar builder project of the year silver

This year’s Silver Project of the Year, the 18-MW Annapolis Renewable Energy Park, is an 80-acre monument to the virtues of civic collaboration. The project’s 54,000 solar panels will generate over 20,000 MWh of clean electricity each year (enough to power more than 12 percent of the city’s homes), generate more than $5 million in revenue for the city over the course of its 20-year lease and save taxpayers an estimated $1.7 million over that time.

And it almost never happened.

A Fresh Start

Annapolis solar project

Annapolis Renewable Energy Park | Annapolis, Md. | 18 MW

  • Developer: BQ Energy
  • Contractor: EDF Renewables, Distributed Solutions
  • Modules: REC Solar
  • Inverters: Power Electronics
  • Mounting: Solar FlexRack

Solar projects situated on landfills are notoriously tedious to get done in terms of financing and construction, and this was no different (we will get to that) but for years the largest obstruction to progress were the two jurisdictions getting on the same page.

“The city and county working together seems so obvious, and for decades it didn’t happen,” says Steve Schuh, county executive for Anne Arundel County at the ground breaking. “The city and county maintained a relationship of either mutually ignoring each other or outright hostility.”

Thus, a project originally tabled as far back as 2009 couldn’t garner enough support to move forward. This all changed when Michael Pantelides was elected Mayor of Annapolis. Finally a partnership was formed to allow both jurisdictions to pursue projects that benefited each of their goals, stuff like environmental cleanup, improved waterways, restoring the oyster population and a focus on bringing in new jobs. The Annapolis Renewable Energy Park is a culmination of many of these goals as it is the largest landfill project in Maryland and possibly the largest in North America.

Development

Solar builder project of the year annapolis

The Annapolis project is financed 100 percent by private money. Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-based BQ Energy LLC was in charge of the construction and specializes in landfill projects. The company became interested in the project when Annapolis issued a request for proposal, and BQ Energy subsequently signed a 20-year lease for the space in August 2015. The ensuing two years were all about permitting and lining up the stakeholders.

The Annapolis Renewable Energy Park is remarkable for its size and complexity. As with any landfill project, contractors had to follow strict EPA protocols and state regulations, such as needing non-penetrating racking technology to prevent damage to the site’s environmental cap. National engineering, procurement and construction firm EDF Renewables Distributed Solutions led the way on the ground. They turned to Solar FlexRack for the racking, a Youngstown, Ohio-based provider that’s become synonymous with landfill solar projects. Unable to drill piles into the landfill’s protective membrane cap, Solar FlexRack’s Series B (ballasted) Pre-Cast solar mounting technology was selected to transfer loads into the concrete block and allow for reductions in ballast thickness.

“Solar FlexRack’s expertise in this important niche market makes the company a perfect partner for landfill projects,” says Jamie Resor, CEO, EDF Renewables Distributed Solutions. “We are pleased to work with a firm that can provide the precise, high-quality product required to execute our vision for the Annapolis Renewable Energy Park.”

The seven pre-fabricated inverter stations were designed and handled to meet the size and weight restrictions. Trucks were allowed in according to a careful schedule to prevent damage to the roads and to protect the environmental cap on the landfill. Furthermore, the design allowed access to 10 methane vents on the landfill that are maintained by the city of Annapolis during the operating phase of the solar energy facility.

Upon completion, the assets were turned over to Building Energy Development U.S. LLC, a subsidiary of Italian renewable energy company Building Energy S.p.A., which will provide the money necessary to repay the loans. In the end, all these efforts converted a formerly toxic, unusable property the size of almost 60 football fields into a powerhouse supplier of clean energy that created over 100 new jobs.

— Solar Builder magazine