EMU To Host Largest Solar Project in Virginia

EMU’s partnership with Secure Futures, LLC, a Staunton-based solar energy developer, is gaining momentum as a solar photovoltaic array is being installed on the roof of (EMU’s Sadie Hartzler Library).

A solar panel array like this will soon be constructed on the rooftop of EMU's Hartzler Librry
Installation of an array of solar panels began in mid October 2010. The completed EMU solar project will be the largest photovoltaic (PV) deployment of any kind in Virginia.

The system, scheduled for completion in mid-November, 2010, will have the capacity to generate 104.3 kilowatts of electricity, making it the largest solar project in Virginia, with enough power to supply the total average annual electricity costs for nine homes in Harrisonburg.

Secure Futures continues to seek additional investors to help complete financing for a second solar array consisting of 300 kW of solar panels to be installed on raised solar canopies above the north parking lot of EMU’s University Commons.

EMU President Loren Swartzendruber  and Dr. Tony Smith, Secure Futures CEO and co- director of EMU's MBA program
EMU President Loren Swartzendruber (l.) and Dr. Tony Smith, Secure Futures CEO and co- director of EMU’s MBA program, sign agreement documents for the solar energy project to move forward on campus. Projected completion for the initial phase is mid-November, 2010. Photo by Jim Bishop

EMU has entered into 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 its current provider, the 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.

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.

Largest solar power installation in state

When complete, the installation on the roof of EMU’s Hartzler Library of 328 high-efficiency photovoltaic panels manufactured by the SunPower Corporation will represent the largest deployment to date of solar power in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

According to the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, the second largest solar project in the state is currently the 84 kW solar installation at the Merrifield Post Office in Northern Virginia.

Dr. Tony Smith, Secure Futures CEO and co- director of EMU's MBA program
Dr. Tony Smith, Secure Futures CEO and co- director of EMU’s MBA program

"EMU is demonstrating that solar power represents a good financial and social investment – doing good and doing well," said Secure Futures CEO Anthony E. (Tony) Smith, who also co-directs EMU’s Stewardship MBA Program.

"This solar project will cut EMU’s usage and peak demand energy costs and 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.

Officials across Virginia applaud agreement

"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 Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME).

Using economic stimulus funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, DMME awarded an incentive grant for the project.

The entire system – solar panels, inverters, conduits and monitoring equipment – will be installed and maintained by Southern Energy Management. 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.

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.

About Secure Futures

Secure Futures, LLC 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 Southern Energy Management

Southern Energy Management 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.