Tupelo Music Hall cutting ribbon on its 100-kW solar array

Revision Energy project

A public ribbon cutting is scheduled on October 16 at Tupelo Music Hall, in New Hampshire — a facility that is believed to be the first solar-powered venue of its kind in New England. The event will recognize Tupelo’s clean energy transition and will include remarks by local leaders.

A 313-panel (100-kW) rooftop solar array recently installed by ReVision Energy at the new, 20,000 square-foot facility will generate 114,000 kWh per year, enough to offset 100% of the music hall’s annual electric load.

“From the time we started construction, one goal of Tupelo Music Hall was to operate the business in a way that minimizes our carbon footprint as much as possible,” said Tupelo Owner Scott Hayward. “The use of biodegradable goods, only installing LED lighting, recycling what we can and purchasing the most energy-efficient appliances possible are a few ways we have done this.”

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From day one, the transition to solar energy is a cash flow-positive arrangement for Tupelo. With financing, Hayward is able to immediately lower his electric costs since solar loan payments will be less than what he has been paying the utility on an annual basis. After a five-year payback period, the array will generate free electricity for decades to come. The array is forecast to save over $750,000 in electric costs over the life of the system.

“ReVision is excited about Tupelo’s leadership of the clean energy transition, as one of the top music venues in New England,” said Dan Weeks, Director of Market Development at ReVision Energy. “Thanks to advances in solar technology, businesses like Tupelo – and anyone with a sunny roof or lawn – no longer have to choose between saving money and saving the environment. We’re thrilled to work with Tupelo as the first music hall we know of in New England to go 100% solar.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Check out ReVision Energy’s new branding campaign: Enjoy the Sun

A day out on the lake. A summer afternoon in your backyard. A morning snowshoe trek on your favorite trail. New England based ReVision Energy wants to tap into your passion for the outdoors and inspire you to enjoy the sun with solar panels. Their new brand campaign, “Enjoy the Sun,” introduces a new logo and fresh approach to the 15-year old employee-owned company, which boasts 7,000 solar installations across Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

“Too often marketing solar has been a technical trade, all about kilowatts, cost per watts, and inverters” said Bridget Sprague, ReVision’s Director of Marketing, “We found that what really connects solar owners is a desire to make choices in life that protect the outdoors they enjoy with family and friends.”

Behind the Scenes

The concept “Enjoy the Sun” came out of an exhaustive brand audit process, conducted by Sprague, whose background includes 10 years running her own socially-responsible branding firm. After interviewing ReVision Energy employees, customers, and prospects, a consistent theme emerged – a love for canoeing and kayaking, fishing and hiking, rock climbing, or just hanging out with family and friends under the sun.

While the solar industry is relatively new in the Northeast, “Enjoy the Sun” is all about connecting to a well established, and mature industry: outdoor recreation. Over 70% of Mainers and 61% of people in New Hampshire and Massachusetts participate in an outdoor recreation outing each year, a sector that contributes over $17 Billion to Northern New England’s economy, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

ReVision also hopes the outdoor recreation message will resonate strongly with a rapidly growing demographic for solar: millennials. According to a Deloitte study, 64% of millennials report being ‘Extremely interested’ in solar, compared to 47% of Gen-Xers and 39% of Baby Boomers.

“Millennials, whether they are buying homes or living in apartments, look critically at their energy choices and want to generate it more responsibly,” said Sprague, “Solar aligns perfectly with their values, and now it’s affordable, too.” Sprague points out that solar has fallen in price by 74% since 2004, and ReVision offers solar loans where a customer can swap a power bill for solar and save money immediately.

ReVision Energy has become the leading solar energy company in northern New England, founded by two guys in a garage and growing to over 220 employee-owners in five locations (Liberty & Portland, ME; Concord & Exeter, NH; N. Andover, MA).

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar Builder 2017-06-19 16:15:39

Historic funeral business leaps into 21st century with rooftop solar arrays on seven locations

freedom solar installation

Freedom Solar recently installed more than 530 kilowatts of solar power on seven locations of Mission Park Funeral Chapels and Cemeteries, the largest and oldest privately owned funeral company in San Antonio.

Powered by 1,634 high-efficiency solar panels, the new solar projects will offset more than 55 percent of Mission Park’s electricity needs at the seven locations: two mortuaries (Oak Hill and Palm Heights), its corporate office, three funeral chapels and cemeteries (North, South, and Dominion), and its funeral home (Brookehill).

The entire system is expected to pay for itself in less than four and a half years. A generous local utility rebate covered roughly 46 percent of total system costs. Mission Park will also receive the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for 30 percent of the project’s total cost, saving the company a total of 76 percent.

Annually, Mission Park’s solar arrays will produce 778,735 kilowatt-hours of electricity, which will offset more than 547 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. Because funeral homes operate 24 hours a day seven days a week, electric bills are a large portion of their operating costs. Mission Park’s project features SunPower 327-watt solar panels, which are the most efficient available today, with unmatched reliability and an expected life of more than 40 years. Freedom Solar Power is a SunPower Master Dealer, the only company with that distinction in Texas.

Once the first phase (the initial seven locations) of Mission Park’s solar project has paid for itself, Tips will begin phase two and have Freedom Solar design and install solar arrays on another set of its locations.

Austin Independent School District adds 600 kW rooftop system

PCI Solar is installing a 600 kilowatt portfolio of rooftop solar for Austin Independent School District (AISD), as well as providing classroom instruction to Austin High School engineering students interested in careers in solar. Austin High is one of the AISD schools receiving a solar energy system, and invited PCI to speak with interested students, some of whom have solar on their homes. PCI Solar staff provided an overview of how solar energy works, the economic case for solar, and the various types of careers in solar energy.

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“We were really impressed at the knowledge level of these students regarding energy in general and solar specifically,” said Mark Hilpert with PCI. “They asked good questions and had a knowledge far beyond what I had at their age. If these sorts of kids join our industry, we will be fortunate.”

PCI staff and the students discussed a variety of issues including the differences between ground mount, rooftop and carport solar, and the different market opportunities between residential, commercial, and utility scale solar. An informal poll of the students indicated that at least 25 percent of them were actively considering a career in renewable energy.

PCI is nearing completion on the AISD portfolio, which was won through a public competitive bid process. AISD valued PCI’s experience building solar for other school districts, including Alamo Heights Independent School District in San Antonio, TX and Petaluma City Schools in California.

 

ReVision Energy, Quest Renewables design solar canopy atop Portland, Maine garage

revision parking canopy

ReVision Energy, in partnership with Quest Renewables, recently completed the installation of a 193.63-kW QuadPod solar canopy system atop Portland, Maine’s Fore Street Garage. The system has been producing power since late May. Fore Street Garage is owned by ReVision Energy’s customer, East Brown Cow Management Company.

The installation marks the first commercial solar parking garage canopy in the state of Maine. The solar parking garage canopy on the top level of the Fore Street Garage provides shaded parking and cover from the elements for vehicles and provides clean, local, renewable energy to the Hyatt Place. The 193.63kW solar array consists of 578 individual panels wired to seven grid tied inverters and mounted to an advanced long span solar canopy structure.

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The system was designed by Quest Renewables and features seven of their QuadPod solar canopies. To accommodate the addition of the system atop the parking garage, engineers designed it to integrate into the garage with minimal disruption during construction. 90% of QuadPod’s construction activity, including assembly, wiring and lighting, takes place on the ground. After assembly, wiring and lighting, the solar canopies are lifted by crane for final installation, minimizing overhead work and optimizing worksite safety. Worksites are safer and more efficient with construction crews working on the ground.

The power generated by the system will offset energy used by the garage and the Hyatt Place, also owned by East Brown Cow Management Company. The 578 solar panels atop the system will produce an estimated 232,235 kWh of clean, renewable energy each year for decades to come, offsetting over 23 percentof the hotel’s historical electrical consumption. Over its lifetime, this system will eliminate 7 million pounds of CO2 pollution. The array is grid-tied, and feeds into the utility grid anytime it’s making more energy than is being consumed on site. Solar energy is eligible for a federal tax credit, worth 30% of the total project cost.

How Temple Beth Elohim Wellesley financed solar energy for its synagogue

Temple Beth Elohim, a Wellesley-based Reform congregation, has joined with Solect Energy and PowerOptions of Boston, to install a 37-kW solar energy system on the roof of its synagogue. The solar array is a significant addition to the congregation’s efforts toward
sustainability.

As a nonprofit that is unable to benefit from renewable energy federal and state tax incentives, the Temple faced a number of options for financing and installing the solar array. After comparing rooftop solar opportunities from different vendors, a team of congregants, staff and clergy at Temple Beth Elohim selected Solect’s small systems solar program with PowerOptions.

Under the program, Solect installs, owns, and operates the solar arrays on the Temple’s roof, and sells the power generated under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) at a fixed rate for a period of 20 years. However, completing the transaction was not as straightforward as in many other towns. Solar generation works differently under municipal utilities than it does in an investor-owned territory with utilities like Eversource and National Grid. Wellesley is one of 41 towns in Massachusetts that purchase power from the electric utility owned by the municipality, in this case, the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant (“WMLP”).

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Massachusetts laws require the utility to be the reseller of power to its customers within the town boundaries. Making the array a reality required a PPA with the WMLP. Under the agreement, the power generated from the array is purchased by the WMLP, who then sells it to the Temple.

“Creating the contractual arrangement with the municipal electric utility requires an understanding of Massachusetts laws and maintaining a focus on value for the customer,” said Kevin Sullivan, Assistant Superintendent for the WMLP. “It required hard work and collaboration from a number of different parties to develop this innovative solution, and I’m thrilled we made it work for the congregation.”

Nexamp Powers Up Community Solar  in Massachusetts

Nexamp logo

Nexamp sent word that it completed a 700-kW facility located in Fitchburg, Mass., that is the first community solar project to serve Unitil customers in Massachusetts and will provide local residents and small businesses with access to the benefits of solar energy for the first time.

Through Nexamp’s innovative Solarize My Bill community solar program, participating Unitil customers, many of whom were previously unable to install solar panels on their own property, are now seeing reduced electricity charges through their subscription to the Fitchburg Solar project. In addition, the neighboring Town of Lunenburg will realize substantial energy cost savings through a long-term agreement to purchase discounted energy credits generated by the project. Together, the Town of Lunenburg and Nexamp’s Solarize My Bill customers are expected to save hundreds of thousands of dollars through their participation in the project.

“Lunenburg has enjoyed a very beneficial relationship with Nexamp,” said Phyllis Luck, Board of Selectman, Town of Lunenburg. “In addition to the Town’s net metering agreement, which is expected to generate over $600,000 in utility cost savings over the next 20 years, Nexamp has extended the partnership to include our Town’s residents, who remain keenly interested in community solar. In fact, Nexamp enrolled nearly 40 Lunenburg households in two weeks’ time to theirSolarize My Bill community solar program and these residents should save over $275,000 in electricity costs over the term of their subscriptions with Nexamp.”

The project is situated on land towards the rear of an active apple orchard in Fitchburg, providing the landowners with a reliable source of ground lease income that will help keep the orchard operational and enable it to offset nearly all of its energy needs from local renewable resources.

Fitchburg Solar is one of 17 community solar facilities that Nexamp has constructed and expects to achieve operations in the coming months.

Three takeaways from SEPA’s community solar report

— Solar Builder magazine

PV Pointers: How to future-proof PV systems with a storage-ready inverter

You don’t need to install a battery (yet) to give solar customers a next-gen solar-plus-storage system.

Your customer wants reassurance

Solar-plus-storage is finally ready for mainstream adoption, thanks to technology enhancements in DC-coupled inverters and continued cost reductions in smart battery technology. Batteries with grid-tied PV will soon be the standard offering as customers recognize the benefits of storing local behind-the-meter energy. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, lithium-based smart batteries are poised to follow the same cost reduction curve as PV modules, crossing the $200/kWh threshold in the next several years.

Pika Energy“We are seeing strong demand for storage-ready grid-tied photovoltaic systems,” says Phil Coupe of ReVision Energy, a solar installer in northern New England. “Today’s battery options remind me of where PV was five to 10 years ago, when the technology was pretty good but retail pricing was out of reach for all but the wealthiest and most progressive consumers.”

ReVision Energy has been installing the Pika Energy Island inverter for clients in the Northeast to prepare them for the day when batteries are more cost-competitive.

The demand for these batteries will grow proportionately with the economic use cases for solar-plus-storage. Already, an increasing number of U.S. markets are introducing time-of-use billing, eliminating or reducing net energy metering, billing residential customers based on periods of peak usage, or, in parts of Hawaii, disallowing new PV permits entirely.

Meanwhile, you have customers dragging their feet with proposals for carefully designed and economically modeled PV installations. And the more they read about solar-hostile policies, the more they may worry that their state could be the next Nevada.

How do you reassure a customer with misgivings about the future of solar-friendly politics in his or her utility region? The answer lies in the inverter you offer.

You can learn all about this and more during the upcoming Solar Builder webinar “Future-ready solar Installations with the Pika Energy Island.” Register here.

Your customer wants a secure investment

By offering a hybrid PV inverter that can operate as a grid-tied “conventional” system, but which has built-in islanding and the capability of directly integrating a smart battery later, you’re giving your customer the reassurance of a future-proof of the investment.

“More and more, people are recognizing that storage costs are beginning to decline, and they want their solar energy system to be able to integrate batteries when the price point justifies the investment,” Coupe notes.
Sometimes, having that reassurance is all a customer needs to move forward with their wise decision to power their home with solar. And for you, that means your solar installations can continue, unimpeded by local policy rhetoric.

Your customer wants options

In addition to reassurance to offset customers’ doubts in uncertain policy markets, hybrid inverters with the innate ability to switch between grid-tied and islanding power can offer customers flexible operational modes for various states of use. For example, customers with such inverters can use them for grid-tied net metering today and have the option to add a battery tomorrow for clean backup power.

ReVision Energy’s customers will use their battery-integrated grid-tied systems for clean backup power during winter grid outages, and, if solar policy grows hostile toward net metering, those customers have a simple step toward recovering their investment.

By offering hybrid islanding inverters that feature the option of adding directly-coupled batteries in the future, installers like ReVision Energy are providing a differentiated option that protects the customer’s clean energy investment, helping solar buyers to feel smart and secure in their decision.

Chip Means is director of sales development at Pika Energy.

— Solar Builder magazine