Eastern Mennonite University: Solar Project
Eastern Mennonite University: Solar Project
When EMU launched a solar array on the roof of Hartzler library in 2010, it was:
- the largest commercial scale (first over 100 kW) solar project in the state;
- the first privately financed, commercial scale solar array in Virginia;
- a catalyst for a new municipal solar “net metering policy” to benefit all Harrisonburg City electric customers.
Within 15 days, the array had already offset several barrels of oil, more than three trees, and over 4,000 pounds of carbon. Over the next 10 months, the array exceeded its anticipated output by 12 percent.
Secure Futures, a solar development company based in Staunton, Virginia, owns and operates the EMU solar installation through its subsidiary, Community Solar. View a video by Secure Futures about our solar array.
Key Points to Remember
The solar project is complex. Here are some key points to remember.
- Savings are likely over the long run. Based on the history of annual increases in electricity prices in the United States, EMU has projected that it is highly likely that it will save money over the next 20 years and beyond with these solar panels.
- Solar is less of a burden on taxpayers when all factors are considered. Taxpayers, through our government entities, provide subsidies for oil and gas exploration, transportation, and refining. In addition, large sums of tax dollars go toward defense efforts to protect oil and gas resources, as well as toward cleaning up the environmental damage caused by spills and extraction processes, and toward addressing air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
- The project results in reasonable payments for our solar power. Under our arrangement with Secure Futures, Inc., we are paying rates that are contractually set for 20 years, allowing us to predict how much we will pay for the energy generated by the solar panel array 10, 15 and 20 years from now.
- The project is a step in the right direction. Our solar panels provide only a small portion of the power that we use, but we must start somewhere. They are a step in the right direction, toward relying on renewable, non-polluting energy sources.
About EMU’s Solar Project
In 2010, EMU entered into a 20-year power purchase agreement with Community Solar to buy the solar-generated electricity at a “grid-parity” price equivalent to the rate that EMU pays for power from its current provider. EMU agreed to pay in advance for 10 years of the guaranteed solar electricity output at the outset of the project, which reduces project financing costs. In return, Community Solar will pass savings back to EMU as an annual credit.
Southern Energy Management, a North Carolina-based energy efficiency and solar power company, installed and maintains the solar panels for Community Solar.
Using economic stimulus funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) awarded an incentive grant for the project. ARRA funds through the US Treasury 1603 Investment Tax Credit grant will also help finance this project. Community Bank in Staunton, VA, provided construction financing for this project.
Stewardship of God’s creation is a core value of EMU. The solar project will cut EMU’s usage and peak demand energy costs and thus reduce reliance on power generated by coal and other fossil fuels. It will also eliminate more than 6,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the projected 35-year life of the solar panels. The array performance was exceeding output expectations 10 months into operation.
Power generated by the panels goes first to the library distribution system. On most days when the library is in operation all power generated is used for lighting, climate control and information technology. If the library is closed – on a sunny day – excess power flows into the campus grid. If more solar power collectors are added on campus, there will be occasions – spring break and summer – when the campus grid has excess power. Excess capacity will flow to the Harrisonburg Electric Commission (HEC) utility grid for a set price.
EMU has a 20-year power purchase agreement to buy the solar-generated electricity at a “grid-parity” price equivalent to the rate that EMU pays for power from HEC.