By Tiffany Vail
Associate Conference Minister for Communications
The Massachusetts Conference now has 83 solar panels installed on the roof of its Framingham office building, which will generate clean energy while allowing the Conference to reduce spending on electricity.
The panels were installed as part of a power purchasing agreement, and so were installed free of charge to the Conference.
"As your Conference Minister, I have been so proud of the more than a dozen congregations who have led the way by installing solar," said The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal. "Along with the Board and our Conference staff, I am delighted that 'the barn' now has solar panels. And one thing more. We will soon have the capacity for visitors and staff with electric cars to charge their vehicles (free of charge) while they're on premise."
Antal expressed gratitude to those who have supported Friends of the Conference, which is covering the $6,000 cost of installing the EV Charging Station. The station will allow up to two cars to charge their batteries while they are parked at the Conference center.
As for the panels, the Conference is just waiting on Eversource to make the final connection so they can go live.
Associate Conference Minister Dawn Hammond said that a power purchasing agreement made the most sense for the Conference to install solar. Buying panels, she said, was cost prohibitive given that there are no tax incentives for a nonprofit to purchase panels.
Under the agreement between the Conference and Egg Rock Solar, Egg Rock owns the panels, and the Conference will purchase the energy supplied by them at a contracted price per kilowatt hour (kWh). The price goes up by an inflation factor every year over the 20 years of the contract. The Conference will have the opportunity to exercise a buyout after seven years.
Egg Rock's parent company, 621 Energy, also replaced the relevant section of the barn roof as part of the agreement, and incorporated that cost into the price the Conference will pay per kWh. Even with the roofing costs included, Hammond said, the Conference will be saving 5.3 cents per kWh as compared with this year’s Eversource pricing. This amounts to a modest projected annual savings of about $1500 per year on electricity.
The system will generate about 31,800 kWh of power annually, which is about a third of what the Conference uses. The size of the system was limited by the capacity of the utility transformer linking the Conference buildings to the electrical grid, as well as the positioning of some of roofs on the property.
"The Finance Committee of the Board views this as an initial phase," Hammond said. "They hope to find a way to add further generating capacity on some other sections of roof over time, as technology advances."
Hammond said the Conference was referred to 621 Energy by Mass. Interfaith Power and Light. The company has run solar installations for many nonprofits, including the First Congregational Church in Melrose UCC, Gordon-Conwell Seminary, a YMCA camp, and a Lutheran church, and was enthusiastically recommended.
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