NEWBURYPORT – A program of households receiving solar loans from communal solar parks in Massachusetts started with 100 households and expanded to 150 in Newburyport.
The Nexamp program, launched in 2007, has been building and operating solar parks in the northeast for more than a decade. The opportunity for a small group of homeowners to get some of their household electricity from Nexamp's photovoltaic solar cell arrays came more than a year ago in a program led by Molly Ettenborough, the city's recycling and energy manager, and the Energy Advisory Committee.
In an agreement with Nexamp, three Newburyport schools receive solar loans from five solar parks in the Nexamp community. The total generating capacity of these five solar parks is 5.94 MW, and Newburyport will ultimately receive 50% of the total, or approximately 2.97 MW, according to Keith Hevenor, communications manager at Nexamp.
Ettenborough says two solar projects in Sutton and Marlborough run electricity and make electricity loans to Bresnahan Elementary School and Newburyport High School. The remaining projects are expected to go online in the next few months. The credits are assigned to Bresnahan, NHS and the Nock / Molin School.
This municipal agreement opened the door for Nexamp to provide some of the electricity for today's 150 households. Hevenor said not all homeowners see the electricity loans on their bills, but more solar panels will go online in the coming months.
In reality, Nexamp's electricity is fed into the grid so that the city's schools and homes are powered by national grid cables. Homeowners receive up to 15% discount on electricity from Nexamp's solar parks.
“It's important to remember that with Community Solar we don't send electricity directly to customers,” said Hevenor. “We send electricity to the local grid and share the value of that electricity with subscribers by crediting their national electricity bills.” and then charge the value of the balance minus the fixed discount “which for Newburyport customers is 15%.
Nexamp supplies Newburyport with power from nine of its solar parks, which are part of the company's holdings in states that extend to Minnesota, Georgia and Hawaii.
With news that General Motors plans to greatly expand production to include electric vehicles, power generators are working to meet the need for electric power to charge cars and trucks.
According to Hevenor, at least once a year, Nexamp employees perform an “allocation check” for each customer to see if their electricity consumption changes significantly. For example, if a homeowner buys an electric vehicle and charges at home, adds a grand piano to a house, or family members leave college, the demand for electricity goes up or down.
Hevenor said the Nexamp customer would call the company and the electricity credits could be adjusted accordingly.
“We have models that we can use to see how your usage will change,” said Hevenor when a homeowner buys an electric vehicle, for example.
He said Nexamp's goal is to remain privately owned and continue to build solar panels to meet demand. Last year, the company hired 90 people, employing more than 300 people in its Boston office.
As a side note, Hevenor said Nexamp has started working with sheep farmers in some areas to keep the grass under and around the massive solar panels.
Unlike local lawnmower landscapers who the company hires in many locations, there is no risk of sheep grazing that damage sheep or solar panels.
Using local sheep has created a revenue opportunity for farmers and Nexamp does not use fossil fuel burning equipment to maintain our clean energy equipment.
More information about Nexamp can be found at www.nexamp.com.
Richard K. Lodge is the editor of the Daily News.