Monadnock Community Solar initiative – Frequently Asked Questions

What is Community Solar (CS)?
Community Solar is a PV (photovoltaic), solar electric system that provides power and other benefits to community members.  Falling PV installation costs and creative new financing models have made solar projects more financially feasible. CS here in the Monadnock region will provide power from locally harvested solar energy, provide optimal project siting, improve economies of scale, create local jobs and increase public understanding of solar energy while strengthening our community.  The NH Community Supported Solar Guide published by The Monadnock Sustainability Network (MSN) explains this in detail.

What are the advantages of Community Solar (CS)?
Community Solar (CS) is emerging across the United States spearheaded by people seeking local alternatives to conventional energy sources in order to control rising energy costs, reduce carbon emissions and provide greater energy resiliency. The NH Community Supported Solar Guide provides an explanation and insights into the various types of CS and based on the experience with the first local project options for others to pursue community owned solar.

Who is bringing Community Solar (CS) to the Monadnock region?
The Monadnock Sustainability Network (MSN), a non-profit (www.greenmonadnock.org), working with local citizens and stakeholders established the first Monadnock Community Solar initiative (MCSi) project here in our region. MSN developed a plan based on a collaborative project with Antioch University NE in the spring of 2014. MSN supported an active steering committee working to build the first locally owned community solar project. The steering committee decided to pursue the LLC community supported solar model where local individuals form a business that owns the PV system and sells clean, local solar electricity to a host. The Monadnock Food Co-op is the first host site for a 43.5 KW PV system. The Co-op will buy all of the electricity under a Power Purchase Agreement with Cypress Community Solar LLC and within 10 years the Co-op will buy the PV system from the LLC after the investors have received a modest return.

What is the status/timeframe/implementation schedule of the Community Solar project at the Monadnock Food Coop?
May, 2016: This first project went out for competitive bids in the fall of 2015, the winning bid was awarded to Keene based Solar Source. Due to the onset of winter the installation was scheduled for spring 2016. Construction started in late March, 2016, the first locally owned Community Supported Solar project began harvesting solar power on May 25, 2016.

What is the project’s total cost? Have funding sources been identified?
The initial project budget of $150,000 includes the PV system, legal expenses and a contingency fund. It was our hope to include as many local citizens as possible, including individuals that would benefit from the 30% federal tax credit for solar investments and a number of Co-op members.  Due to securities regulations the number and type of investors was limited. As we point out in the NH Community Supported Solar Guide there is a need to change these regulations so more citizens can participate.

What kind/how many jobs will the project create?
The installation of a typical ~40 KW roof top PV system would involve 6-15 people in such local jobs as bidding, project management, crane operation, structural support and panel installers, electricians and laborers.  This does not include the legal, engineering, manufacturing and distribution jobs from beyond our area.

Will this project be replicated around the region?
MSN supported the formation of the MCSi steering committee for the initial project with the understanding that it hoped to develop a guidebook that can be used by others to pursue a locally owned, clean, renewable energy system on their school, CSA, church or other site in their community. The NHCSS Guide offers an introduction, overview and potential planning ideas for community solar energy projects. It provides perspective, insights and support for those looking to initiate a locally owned community solar project. It explores and explains community solar options and provides broad and general guidelines on the advantages and disadvantages of certain community solar energy project concepts. For those who pursue locally-owned CSS, there is a menu of support and legal documents explained in the guide, including: LLC agreement; tax equity and community funding agreements; Power Purchase Agreement (PPA); Engineering & Procurement Contract documents as well as cash flow and return on investment spreadsheets, community/investor presentations and other information. Consulting services are also described.

Will this project reduce carbon emissions?
Carbon emissions are reduced by the production of solar electricity at the Monadnock Food Co-op by the 1st MCSi PV system.   We have conservatively predicted the 43.5KW  system will produce 48,000 kWH of PV electricity per year, well below the 56,000 predicted by PV Watts, the National Renewable Energy Lab tool using Concord, NH data. Carbon emissions reduced by the conservative estimate of the Co-op PV system, assuming .000368 tons of CO2 avoided per year for each kWH of PV, would be 17.7 Tons of CO2 in the first year. Based on other states such as VT & CO where community solar (CS) is flourishing, significant greenhouse gas reductions are possible if others pursue CS.

Why pursue community solar?
Community Owned Solar is a vital option for broader citizen participation and greater carbon reduction. Presently in NH an individual or business can install PV if they have the capital and a good site.  A fairly typical residential system of 5KW system would cost around $19,000 before incentives and tax credits. This is not an option for many folks even if they have a good solar site. Community Solar will reduce up-front costs for participants, provide optimal project siting, improve economies of scale, increase public understanding of solar energy, and enhance our resiliency. By developing CS models that can be replicated across the region and state we believe we can achieve greater access to solar and augment the current individually owned clean energy project approach.

To learn more about this exciting opportunity please contact John Kondos at jkondos@home-efficiency.com