Unity College and ReVision Energy partner for solar power project

Solar array will provide 80 percent of Quimby Library electricity demand
By Ben Holbrook | Sep 26, 2012
Photo by: Ben Holbrook A 144-panel solar array on top of the Quimby Library at Unity College will provide about 80 percent of the electricity demand for the building.

Unity — Unity College is partnering with ReVision Energy to install a 144-panel solar array on the roof of the Quimby Library that will provide about 80 percent of the building's electricity demand.

Power generated by the 37-kilowatt system is purchased from ReVision Energy by the college. Any power that is not immediately used in the library is then sent onto the public grid, to which the solar panel system is tied, and the college is credited for that power.

Unity College Sustainability Coordinator Jesse Pyles said the solar project is only possible because of the power purchase agreement between ReVision Energy and the college.

“A third-party [ReVision Energy] will own and operate the system. They will get the payback for the first six years and we have the option to purchase the system in the seventh year,” Pyles said.

Without the partnership between the college and ReVision Energy, Pyles said, it would be difficult to install the system because of the cost. However, because ReVision is fronting the cost of the installation, Unity is able to move forward with the goal of expanding its renewable energy portfolio.

John Luft, the Liberty branch manager for ReVision Energy, said the power purchase agreement is a financial win for his company, because solar energy incentives are all tax-based, and Unity College, as a nonprofit, would be unable to benefit from those incentives without the partnership.

“We’re catching the eye of the country,” Luft said.

Since the project began earlier this month, Pyles said other colleges and universities are contacting Unity because of the interest in exploring similar projects. Pyles said the decision to place the arrays on top of the library was made because of the building’s visibility and public use.

“We want to demonstrate that renewable energy is viable,” he said.

Because the solar array is tied directly into the commercial grid, Luft said, there are no batteries where power would be stored and the system plugs directly into the existing infrastructure in the building. As an added bonus, the system can be monitored remotely over the web, so the college can see that everything is operating properly and how much power is being generated.

Luft also noted that the panels have a 25-year power production warranty, and because there are no moving parts on them, maintenance is not an issue.

“They should generate for 30-plus years, which makes it a great system,” Luft said.

Pyles estimated that the college would save thousands of dollars a year in energy costs as a result of the solar panels.

In addition to the Quimby Library, the president’s house is also completely powered by a solar panel array, Pyles said. Although solar power is a welcome addition to the college, Pyles said, it will not be the only type of renewable energy project Unity pursues in the future.

“We can try a bunch of things,” he said. “Do we want more solar? Absolutely.”

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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