NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT-The Jewish Community Center of the Greater New Haven region has once again made progressive strives to build a sustainable future for Connecticut. In July of 2015, the first set of solar panel car ports were installed at the parking lots of the JCC of New Haven, also home to the Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation.
The installation of the aforementioned panels came after years of JCC Executive Director Scott Cohen finding ways to save money for the nonprofit. “I was working to find funders and sponsorships for this innovative project for years” said Cohen about the solar panels. It turned out that the key to getting solar energy implemented at the JCC was not through a donor, yet rather the government of Connecticut.
C-PACE is an initiative run by the Connecticut Green Bank, the nation’s first bank with the primary focus of making green energy available to all through loans and financing. If a business qualifies for C-PACE, then the business works with C-PACE as well as contractors to find financing for projects. In the JCC’s case, the project was the solar car ports. “Deutsche ECO came to us and recommended we apply for C-PACE, and we’ve had a rather smooth process since” said Cohen. Deutsche ECO is a German contracting company that configures solar systems. So, after much writing and applications, C-PACE determined that the JCC qualified for the program and Deutsche ECO soon go to work configuring the system.
By going through C-PACE, the panels themselves are owned by the state yet the JCC is able to buy the energy produced by the panels rather than from the grid. Annually, the JCC uses about 1.8 million kilowatts of electricity. With solar energy, only 1 million of these kilowatts comes from the grid. To put this in perspective, a kilowatt from the electric company costs 12.5 cents, whereas a kilowatt from the solar panels on the car ports cost 10 cents. Annually, this difference makes a huge difference in cost.
Installing the solar panels were at first met with trepidation by the stakeholders. The biggest negative perception of solar energy comes from the aesthetic appeal issue. Yet by installing the solar panels on car ports above the parking lots, the panels also create shaded parking lots, which has been met with positive reception by patrons. “Currently, there are 2900 panels installed across 5 car ports, making this the biggest car port solar facility in New England” said Cohen, who is just as enthusiastic about the pricing model. “We are buying out energy from the C-PACE panels at a fixed rate for the next 20 years…historically energy rates rise by 3% a year, so we really got a steal here”.
C-PACE’s solar panels are one of many new green initiatives in play on the JCC campus. A cogeneration system that utilizes natural gas has been in place for several years, providing cheaper, more efficient energy than the grid provide. The JCC is also currently working on installing its own solar panels on the roof of the building as well, independent from C-PACE. Roof renovations are currently in operations, with an expected completion date of mid-October.