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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Investment Firm to Fund First Commercial-Scale Solar Installation In VA

Virginia's Landmark Solar Power Project to be Hosted on University Campus

Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) in Harrisonburg will soon be the site of Virginia's first commercial-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) installation in the Commonwealth.

The new installation is part of a proposed revision to the campus master plan to allow for approximately 600 kilowatts of solar energy panels to be installed on the campus. The installation is expected to generate about 12 percent of EMU's total electricity use and save the university an estimated $2 million in avoided electricity costs over the 25-year project.

EMU was one of the three national leaders in efficient energy use out of 90 colleges and universities surveyed by the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers in 2007. In addition to the new solar initiative, EMU sponsors numerous green programs on campus, including an institutional commitment to sustainability.

Under an innovative financing program that has been used extensively by universities in states like California and Colorado, EMU will effectively "host" the installation, paying only for the electricity generated by the panels installed on the campus through a 25-year power purchase agreement with Secure Futures, LLC, a private solar development company based in Staunton, Va.

"This will represent a signature project for EMU, as it embodies the stewardship values of our institution as well as building on our record as a leading green university," said EMU President Loren Swartzendruber.

"The signature components of this project include using state-of-the-art solar technology, and, through Secure Futures' unique financing model, supporting a three-tiered sustainability program including campus, curriculum and community sustainability," said Ron Piper, vice president for finance at EMU.

Staunton-based Secure Futures, LLC, obtained a grant commitment of $225,000 from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) for the project. Tony Smith, CEO of Secure Futures, said "this project will represent a milestone for renewable energy in Virginia insofar as scale and impact. We're excited to see a first example of a solar project achieving electricity rates comparable to those offered on the electric grid, especially since Virginia has among the lowest electricity rates in the country."

Ken Jurman, renewable energy manager for the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME), noted that "The EMU solar project as described fits well within the scope and intent of Virginia energy policy to encourage renewable energy resources. I'm very pleased that this initiative is moving ahead - it's exactly the kind of thing we want to encourage across the Commonwealth to move toward a sustainable energy future."

Secure Futures designs, develops, finances and maintains turnkey distributed solar solutions in collaboration with tax-exempt entities to reduce their electricity costs and to create environmental and economic benefits for customers and their communities.

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