Southern Energy Management (SEM) announced today that it has signed an agreement to install a solar photovoltaic (PV) array on the roof of Eastern Mennonite University’s main library in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The system, scheduled for installation in October and November, will have the capacity to generate 104 kilowatts of electricity, making it the largest solar project in Virginia. The project was organized in partnership with Secure Futures, LLC, a solar energy developer based in Staunton, Virginia.
EMU has entered into a 20-year power purchase agreement with Secure Futures to buy the solar-generated electricity at “grid-parity” pricing, which means it will benefit from clean energy without paying any more than it currently pays for electricity to Harrisonburg Electric Commission.
“This solar project represents good stewardship of the university’s financial resources and the Earth’s natural resources,” said EMU President Loren Swartzendruber. “It will also offer a highly visible case study for our students and our community about the pragmatic benefits of clean, renewable energy,” he added.
When SEM completes the installation on the roof of EMU’s Hartzler Library of more than 300 high-efficiency PV panels, which are manufactured by SunPower, the rooftop array will be the largest deployment to date of solar power in the Commonwealth of Virginia. According to the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME), the state’s current largest solar project is the 84 kW PV installation at the Merrifield Post Office in Northern Virginia.
"We're excited to continue expanding our reach into Virginia, where - working with partners like EMU and Secure Futures - we're able to help achieve some of the same milestones we've been a part of here in North Carolina over the years," said Blair Kendall, business development director with SEM. "Just a few years ago, we designed and installed a 104-kilowatt system similar to the EMU project at the North Carolina Zoo, and it was the largest system on record at the time. Today, we're installing solar arrays that are 10 times that size for clients like the City of Raleigh, and we believe with the right support in place, Virginia will be in a strong position to join the ranks as a leader in sustainable energy."
“This is exactly the kind of project we want to encourage across the Commonwealth to move toward a sustainable energy future,” said Ken Jurman, renewable energy manager for the DMME. Using economic stimulus funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, DMME awarded an incentive grant for the project.
As part of the innovative business model, EMU has 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, Secure Futures will pass savings back to EMU as an annual credit.
“EMU is demonstrating that solar power represents a good financial and social investment – doing good and doing well,” said Secure Futures CEO Dr. Tony Smith, who also co- directs EMU’s Steward-Leadership MBA Program. “This solar project will cut EMU’s usage and peak demand energy costs, thus reducing its 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,” Dr. Smith added.
Working with local contractors, the entire system—solar panels, inverters, conduits and monitoring equipment—will be installed and maintained by SEM, based in Morrisville, N.C. SEM is one of the largest solar integrators in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, and has worked on other local solar projects in Virginia, with other projects also in the works.
Community Bank, based in Staunton, is providing construction financing for the project. Secure Futures has formed a subsidiary company to be co-owned with investors from the Harrisonburg community and elsewhere, Community Solar, LLC, to develop and operate the project.
During construction of the solar array, Secure Futures will also be seeking investors to complete the financing for a second solar array consisting of 300 kW of solar panels on raised solar canopies above the north parking lot of EMU’s University Commons.
About Southern Energy Management
Southern Energy Management (southern-energy.com) is a North Carolina-based sustainable energy company offering energy efficiency, green building and turn-key solar services for homeowners, builders, companies, government and military clients across the Southeast. A certified B Corp, SEM’s mission is to have a measurable impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, and to build a sustainable triple-bottom-line company.
About Secure Futures
Secure Futures, LLC (securefutures.us) designs, develops and finances distributed solar solutions with and for tax-exempt entities to reduce their electricity costs and to protect against future grid price increases through 20- to 25-year Solar Power Purchase Agreements (SPPAs). Secure Futures is based in Staunton, Va.
About Eastern Mennonite University
Eastern Mennonite University (emu.edu) is a leader among faith-based universities, emphasizing peace-building, creation care, experiential learning and cross-cultural engagement. Founded in 1917 in Harrisonburg, Va., EMU has a strong record of sustainability initiatives, including several solar thermal installations, a LEED certified residence hall, a campus garden to supply fresh produce to the dining hall and a focus on course development tied to sustainability.