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Signature Solar Power Project to be Hosted on Campus

Posted on February 26th, 2010

Update: On April 13 Harrisonburg City Council approved rezoning that would allow EMU to move forward with a solar project. In addition, the size and scope of the project has increased significantly, with projected savings to EMU of $4 million over 25 years, offsetting about 20% of EMU’s electricity consumption. Key players are still negotiating with the Harrisonburg Electric Commission regarding technical issues. See latest article

EMU will soon feature another shade of green on its campus: the site of Virginia’s first commercial-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) installation in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The new installation is part of a proposed revision to the campus master plan to allow for approximately 600 kilowatts of solar energy panels to be installed on the campus. The installation is expected to generate about 12 percent of EMU’s total electricity use and save the university an estimated $2 million in avoided electricity costs over the 25-year project.

EMU was one of the three national leaders in efficient energy use out of 90 colleges and universities surveyed by the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers in 2007. EMU sponsors numerous campus green initiatives , including an institutional commitment to sustainability.

Learn more at March meetings

The university will host an event for persons to learn more about the project at 7 p.m. Monday, Mar. 1, in the Strite Conference Room on first floor of the EMU Campus Center.

The Harrisonburg City Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at 409 South Main Street at 7 p.m. Mar. 10 to review EMU’s proposed campus master plan submission to allow for the solar installation.

Under an innovative financing program that has been used extensively by universities in high solar states like California and Colorado, EMU will effectively "host" the installation, paying only for the electricity generated by the panels installed on the campus through a 25-year power purchase agreement with Secure Futures, LLC, a private solar development company based in Staunton, Va.

"This will represent a signature project for EMU, as it embodies the stewardship values of our institution as well as building on our record as a leading green university," said EMU President Loren Swartzendruber.

"The signature components of this project include using state-of-the-art solar technology, and, through Secure Futures’ unique financing model, supporting a three-tiered sustainability program including campus, curriculum and community sustainability," said Ron Piper, vice president for finance at EMU.

Staunton-based Secure Futures, LLC, obtained a grant commitment of $225,000 from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) for the project. Tony Smith, CEO of Secure Futures, said "this project will represent a milestone for renewable energy in Virginia insofar as scale and impact. We’re excited to see a first example of a solar project achieving electricity rates comparable to those offered on the electric grid, especially since Virginia has among the lowest electricity rates in the country."

Ken Jurman, renewable energy manager for the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME), noted that "The EMU solar project as described fits well within the scope and intent of Virginia energy policy to encourage renewable energy resources. I’m very pleased that this initiative is moving ahead – it’s exactly the kind of thing we want to encourage across the Commonwealth to move toward a sustainable energy future."

About Secure Futures, LLC

Secure Futures designs, develops, finances and maintains turnkey distributed solar solutions in collaboration with tax-exempt entities to reduce their electricity costs and to create environmental and economic benefits for customers and their communities. Secure Futures is a solar development company based in Staunton, Va., and is a member of the MD-DC-VA Solar Energy Industries Association (MDV-SEIA). For more information see www.securefutures.us.

For more information on Secure Futures, LLC, contact Tony Smith, CEO, at 540-255-1404 or tony@securefutures.us

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