Solar arrays on schools give Burlington clean energy, revenue

Lindsay Westley
[email protected]

New Solar Arrays on Two Local Schools Produce Clean Energy and

Create Additional Revenue for City of Burlington 

Burlington, VT—Today, executives from Encore Redevelopment were joined by Mayor Miro Weinberger and other city officials at Burlington High School to launch an exciting solar project that will produce clean, renewable energy at two local schools, and will provide an estimated $300,000 in direct economic benefit to the city of Burlington. This project, located at Burlington High School and C.P. Smith Elementary School, is the largest roof-mounted solar panel array in the state of Vermont, and will produce a total of 228kW of locally generated energy. The next project, at the Hunt Middle School, is on schedule to be commissioned by October 2012.

“We are thrilled to have worked with many hard-working representatives from the City in this win-win public/private partnership that not only creates clean energy, but brings significant economic and educational benefits to our home city,” said Encore Redevelopment CEO Chad Farrell. “Encore Redevelopment is committed to encouraging a healthy local renewable energy marketplace in Vermont.  Toward that end, we worked exclusively with Vermont-based businesses on this project, making it a truly local effort that we hope can be replicated across Burlington, as well as in other cities and towns across the state.”

“This partnership is another example of our city’s tremendous opportunity to save taxpayers and homeowners money by embracing 21st Century energy initiatives,” said Weinberger.  “We will continue to become a more prosperous and self-sufficient city by encouraging public-private partnerships like this.  Burlington should be a leader in innovation, renewable energy and energy efficiency, not a community that lags behind.  I look forward to doing everything I can to increase the number of renewable energy projects around Burlington and am grateful for the significant funds these projects will save our residents and the city.”

This project was made possible by an innovative public-private partnership between the Burlington Electric Department and Encore Redevelopment, who will own, operate and maintain the displays, and who co-developed the project with initial project developer New Generation Partners. The partnership featured a creative power-purchase agreement (PPA) that allowed for financial viability while providing the municipal utility with protection against spot market pricing volatility during periods of peak demand. Additional benefits to the City of Burlington will be derived through lease payments made to the Burlington School District from revenues generated by the arrays. A total of over $300,000 of direct economic benefit to the city of Burlington is predicted over the 20-year contract period, and the project will produce enough solar electricity in the first five years of operation to pay for itself. The Burlington schools solar project is the first in an ongoing package of solar arrays.

Students at both schools will benefit from a state-of-the-art PV Monitoring system provided by Draker of Burlington. This data acquisition system will monitor system performance, optimize efficiency, and maximize PV yield. Advanced analytical tools and key performance indicators will provide in-depth production data that will allow for real-time data analysis of the energy generated by the solar arrays and promote the development of clean energy curriculum in the classrooms.

Creative financing structures were critical to this project, with the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA), the Vermont Community Loan Fund (VCLF) and the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund’s Renewable Energy Resource Center all contributing to the success of the project.  The arrays were installed by groSolar of White River Junction, Vermont.

Collaboration with the Burlington Electric Department was instrumental in the success of the project, as the partnership provided additional sources of clean, distributed generation capacity within BED’s distribution system.

“This type of project is very much in line with our mission at BED,” said BED’s General Manager Barbara Grimes. “We promote a strong local economy and a clean environment, and every new solar array installed in Burlington is a hedge against wild pricing in the spot market and reduces reliance on dirty fossil fuel. As a municipal utility, we reflect the values of the people of Burlington. We were very pleased to work with the school district and Encore Redevelopment on this project.”

The City of Burlington School Department also benefits from new sources of clean, renewable energy on otherwise unused school roofs.  The combined economic and educational benefits of the project provide a model example for other school districts throughout the state of Vermont, as the Draker PV Monitoring system will enable new hands-on learning opportunities in the classroom. Terry Bailey, Director of Operations for the Burlington Schools, stated that, “Having these installations at the schools, provides an important message to the public and the students that our community is preparing for the future with renewable energy.  The monitoring systems make available a direct, purposeful learning experience for the students and teachers.”

Jeff Wolfe, CEO of the White River Junction-based groSolar, one of the oldest and most respected solar PV installation contractors in the Northeast, adds, “groSolar is extremely pleased to be involved in this project — the largest school solar project in the state — and we’re glad to be part of a team bringing affordable, renewable energy to our school kids. This is a great model for other schools around Vermont.”

VEDA and VCLF provided financing support that was vital to the project.  “The generation of renewable energy is critical to Vermont’s economic future, and VEDA has been proud to offer financing support to a number of clean energy projects in recent years,” said Jo Bradley, VEDA Chief Executive Officer.  “This project is particularly exciting because of the creative partnerships involved, the scale of the solar array, and the economic and clean energy benefits that will accrue to residents of the City of Burlington in the coming years.”

Will Belongia, Executive Director of the Loan Fund, added, “the Vermont Community Loan Fund has been involved, increasingly, in funding alternative energy sources here in Vermont. This project links to so many aspects of the Loan Fund’s mission and goals, from job creation and keeping dollars local, to educational and environmental benefits.”

The Burlington Schools solar project was an entirely local effort, involving exclusively Vermont-based businesses. Keeping the project local was an important requirement for Encore Redevelopment, who is committed to encouraging local renewable energy marketplace to be competitive with other states investing time and resources into the clean energy marketplace.

“This project represents an innovative approach to alternative energy that focuses on the benefits not only for the environment, but also for our communities and to economic development,” said Jeffrey Hollender, leading authority on corporate responsibility and sustainability, advisor for the project. “By seizing the opportunity to move forward in the field of renewable energy, Vermont has a unique opportunity to further cultivate its entrepreneurial spirit while fulfilling its commitment to renewable energy throughout the state.”

Draker of Burlington is another local company that has grown from its humble beginnings in Burlington’s Old North End to become a global leader in performance monitoring and control of commercial and utility-scale solar power systems.

“Beyond delivering world-class products and services that help maximize the efficiency and profitability of solar PV systems, a key part of our mission at Draker is to educate the communities in which we work about the benefits of renewable energy,” said Chach Curtis, CEO of Draker. “I can think of no greater venue than the solar installation at Burlington High School and C.P. Smith to help achieve that part of our mission in our own backyard.”

Gabrielle Stebbins, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Vermont, the state trade association for renewable energy businesses noted, “This project exemplifies the benefits of developing clean renewable energy in our state. It’s a collaborative process involving a host of Vermont businesses, with direct benefits to our state’s largest city. It increases Vermont’s energy self-reliance, further develops the renewables industry and results in real job creation, and keeping more of our Vermont dollars in-state.”

For more information, please contact Lindsay Westley at (802) 825-6580 or [email protected]

About Encore Redevelopment
Rethink.  Restore.  Renew.  Encore Redevelopment is a Burlington, Vermont-based project development company with a focus on 21st century solutions for underutilized property and new sources of community-scale alternative energy.  Our philosophy is to create harmony between the natural and built environments that fosters sustainable growth and community benefit by creating opportunities for the redevelopment of underutilized property and the generation of clean, renewable sources of electricity.  Founded in 2007, Encore Redevelopment represents environmental leadership and strives to foster job creation and revenue generation in the rapidly developing restoration and green energy economies through project development, capitalization and state of the art project management activities.

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