Boston Community Capital expands portfolio of solar projects with new $7.5 million deal
BOSTON, MA — Boston Community Capital is announcing a new $7.5 million deal to finance eight new solar power projects across Massachusetts, proving the success and resiliency of BCC’s innovative market-based model, which brings solar savings to the low-income and non-profit communities.
BCC’s affiliate, Solar Energy Advantage (SEA), closed on financing for this round of projects last month with a loan from BCC’s Community Loan Fund and a major tax equity investment from U.S. Bank. This expansion will total 1.5 Megawatts (MW) of solar, producing enough electricity to power more than 300 homes.
The properties hosting these projects will see electricity savings of 30 to 40 percent and will save an estimated $1.3 million over the 20-year lifetime of the panels. Among those benefiting are the New Bedford Boys and Girls Club, the Greater Boston Food Bank, the Mill Street Urban Renewal project in the city of Gardner, and several affordable housing developments across the state. A full list of projects is below.
The increasingly volatile prices in fossil fuels and the increasingly visible effects of climate change are driving an interest in solar power among many dollar-conscious and socially-conscious non-profit institutions. Last month, Massachusetts power utilities National Grid and NStar announced increases of up to a 40 percent in electricity supply costs due to the rising costs of natural gas.
“Properly structured, a solar power project can offer significant savings over the long term compared to conventional power,” said Solar Energy Advantage President DeWitt Jones. “And because sunlight is free, the cost of solar electricity is stable over the long term and not subject to the fluctuating prices of fossil fuels. That makes it a great fit for non-profits that are trying to squeeze the most out of every dollar so they can best serve their constituencies.
“But in many cases, the up-front cost of solar is a barrier to non-profits and existing financing programs are not a good match,” Jones said. “We’ve solved this problem by creating a financing model that removes the cost barrier and simplifies the solar development process for our clients. By doing so, we make solar accessible to non-profits and low-income communities. There is no shortage of demand for solar power in these groups.”
“The partnership between Boston Community Capital and The Greater Boston Food Bank is one we truly value,” said Catherine D’Amato, President and CEO, The Greater Boston Food Bank. “The new panels and BCC’s efforts make our 117,000 square foot distribution facility as energy efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. This allows us to use more of our time and resources to acquire and distribute food to help the more than 545,000 people in eastern Massachusetts who are at risk of hunger. BCC is helping to advance GBFB’s mission to provide one meal per day to those in need.”
BCC is rare amongst third-party solar developers both for its mission-driven focus on serving low income communities and its innovative approach. BCC is able to bring solar to non-profit, affordable housing, and municipal facility rooftops by leveraging existing market-based tools to bring down costs and make solar a cost effective investment for these institutions. Many existing solar financing tools rely on tax credits as an incentive, a structure that does directly serve the non-profit world, which generally has little or no tax exposure. In BCC’s model, the non-profit institution pays nothing up front and gets access to solar-powered electricity that’s cheaper than conventional power. In exchange, the institution makes a long-term commitment to buy the electricity produced by the solar panels, which are owned by BCC.
With this latest round, BCC’s project portfolio increases to just over 4 MWs. This makes SEA one of the largest solar providers for low-income communities in the country.
“As the world shifts towards renewable energy, we have to make sure everyone is at the table,” Jones said. “If we don’t work to make sure our energy policies take low-income communities into account, we risk leaving them behind.”
“We’re proud to partner with Boston Community Capital to expand access to solar energy in the region,” said Tracey Gunn Lowell, vice president of U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation, the community development arm of U.S. Bank. “The arrays will not only create positive environmental impacts, but also generate substantial costs savings that will allow area institutions to more fully focus on their missions of serving the people of Boston.”
There are eight projects in total in this expansion:
Boston Community Capital (BCC) is a non-profit community development financial institution dedicated to building healthy communities where low-income people live and work. Since 1985, BCC has invested more than $975 million in projects that provide affordable housing, good jobs, and new opportunities in low-income communities, connecting these neighborhoods to the mainstream economy.