George Washington University has begun a new solar project that will increase solar electricity in Washington, D.C. as well as provide financial assistance to low-to-moderate-income residents across the district. The university provided rooftop space on five campus buildings for solar photovoltaic panels, while New Columbia Solar, a D.C.-based solar energy company, owns the solar panel system. The D.C. Department of Energy and Environment provided project funding through their “Solar for All” Innovation and Expansion grant.
“We are extremely excited to be able to provide financial benefits generated directly from the solar system to the residents of our city who are most in need, as well as to nonprofits that support those residents,” Michael Healy, CEO and Co-Founder of New Columbia Solar, said. “The District’s Solar for All program is especially impactful during this time as many families across our city are hurting from the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. We believe initiatives like this can play an important role in our recovery.”
In addition to the financial benefits, the newly installed solar panels will provide numerous environmental benefits. Most significantly, approximately 450 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent created by traditional electricity generation will no longer be emitted into the atmosphere. This is roughly equivalent to removing 100 cars from the road each year the panels operate.
The project was developed by Community Renewable Energy, a solar developer helping low-income residents and nonprofits access solar, and Root + Branch, an organization focused on renewable energy and community development.
New Columbia Solar, by way of an affiliate LLC with Root + Branch called Neighborhood Solar Equity, will disburse the financial benefits from the project to provide financial assistance to low-to-moderate-income residents and nonprofits across the district. The system, designed to have a capacity of 497 kilowatts alternating current/579 kilowatts direct current, is estimated to bring over $100,000 per year for fifteen years in clean energy savings to income eligible D.C. residents and nonprofits that serve those residents.
“Community Renewable Energy and our team set out to develop a model for renewable energy that maximizes the benefits solar electricity can provide to our community,” Laura Recchie, president of Root + Branch, said. “We are particularly excited about this collaboration because of the innovative way it shares the benefits of solar energy beyond the electricity it generates.”
“In a city that is mostly built out, we have few opportunities for generating green energy,” said DOEE Director Tommy Wells. “GW is proving to be a leader showing what is possible.”
— Solar Builder magazine