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North Bennet Street School Installs 50 kW Solar Array through Race to Solar Program

December 17, 2014

Mayor's Office

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Mayor's Office

 Today Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Cambridge Mayor David P. Maher joined representatives of the Race to Solar program to cut the ribbon of the North Bennet Street School’s new 50 kW solar array. Race to Solar is a partnership with Renew Boston, the City of Cambridge, NSTAR, National Grid, and HEET (Home Energy Efficiency Team) to promote energy efficiency upgrades and make solar power more affordable and accessible for nonprofits, including houses of worship and schools, and small businesses that own their buildings. The solar array at the North Bennet Street School was the first solar energy system installed under the Race to Solar program.

“As a Race to Solar pioneer, North Bennet Street School is helping the City of Boston meet its climate goal of installing 25 megawatts of solar power by 2020,” said Mayor Walsh. “This innovative program makes it even easier for local nonprofits to go solar, helping our community save money and create jobs.”

“This partnership between Cambridge and Boston means that our local nonprofit community can reduce their operating costs while increasing their investment in renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions,” said Cambridge Mayor Maher. “This is a unique opportunity for our cities and few initiatives find such effective ways to realize our sustainability goals and allow nonprofits to direct more resources to serve those in need.”

Launched earlier this year, Race to Solar provides competitively-priced solar lease agreements to nonprofits by aggregating demand. To qualify, nonprofits are encouraged to sign up for a no-cost energy assessment through NStar and National Grid’s Direct Install program, and refer five or more small businesses to do the same. In this manner, Race to Solar helps not only nonprofits, but also local businesses. Small businesses and energy efficiency are both strong drivers of local jobs, making the community more economically and environmentally sustainable.

The North Bennet Street School is the first nonprofit to complete the program and has installed a 50 kW solar energy system on two of their school buildings. The 50 kW system will generate over 20 percent of their electricity over the course a year. The project will pay for itself in nice years with a 30-year energy cost savings of $270,000.

“We have proudly made the positive choice of clean renewable energy and in the process we will save North Bennet Street School money that can be better used for our mission-based work,” said Miguel Gómez-Ibáñez, President of the North Bennet Street School.   

Over 20 local nonprofits have participated in Race to Solar in order to take advantage of the special installation rates, which are made available through the selected installer, SunBug Solar through either a Direct Purchase, such as in the case of North Bennet Street School, or a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), which allows the solar energy system to be installed with no upfront costs. With the PPA, the facility owner, instead of owning the solar array, agrees to purchase electricity from the solar array at a rate typically less than the going utility electricity rate.

The Race to Solar program has been extended to March 31, 2015. The first 40 nonprofit organizations in Boston and Cambridge to participate in Race to Solar can access special incentives on solar energy systems. These nonprofits will also be able to participate in the Direct Install efficiency program to make their buildings more efficient. Finally, nonprofits will also get access to WegoWise, an online benchmarking system. Race to Solar aims to add approximately 1 megawatt of clean, renewable electric power capacity to Boston and Cambridge.

“What better way for an organization to demonstrate its commitment to a clean environment, than to take their energy into their own hands, plus greening their bottom line as well,” said Lilah Morrissey, Special Projects Director of the Race to Solar Program at HEET.  

For more information about the Race to Solar program, call 1-617-HEET-350 or visit www.racetosolar.org.

About the North Bennet Street School: Founded in 1881 and located in Boston’s North End, North Bennet Street School offers intensive, hands-on training in traditional trades and fine craftsmanship, helping students achieve meaningful lives and livelihoods. For more information, visit www.nbss.edu.

About HEET: An award-winning community-based nonprofit, HEET helps organizations and individuals to create more sustainable communities through energy efficiency and renewable energy. Since 2008, HEET has helped to organize over 220 energy-upgrade work-parties, 51 solar panel installations and to train over 3,400 volunteers in hands-on energy efficiency skills.