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Neighborhood Sun and Ameresco Partner to Bring Nation’s Largest Community Solar Project 100 Percent Dedicated to Low- and Moderate-Income (LMI) Residents to Montgomery County, Maryland

15 Nov 2021

The nation’s largest community solar farm to be 100 percent dedicated to low and moderate-income (LMI) residents is coming to Montgomery County. Ameresco, Inc., (NYSE: AMRC), a leading cleantech integrator specializing in energy efficiency and renewable energy, and Neighborhood Sun, a community solar company making solar accessible to everyone through its advanced community solar software platform, Sun Engine, in partnership with Montgomery County, announced the first-of-its-kind solar farm bringing clean energy to thousands of low- and moderate-income Montgomery County residents.

The project’s partners, along with Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and other County representatives, launched the project’s subscription campaign today at an event at the County Executive Office Building in Rockville.

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Pictured at right: Joel Lindsay and Lushaé Cook, Ameresco; Montgomery County Executive Elrich and Gary Skulnik, Neighborhood Sun

Community solar farms enable access to affordable, clean energy for residents who are unable to build their own solar systems. Anyone who receives an electric bill can benefit including renters, residents in multi-unit buildings, municipalities, non-profits and businesses that don’t own their roofs. Through the subscription program for this new project, Montgomery County residents who are on the utility Pepco and who qualify as LMI are eligible to receive 25 percent savings on their electricity costs every month. Subscriptions are now available here.

The array is sited on the capped Oaks Landfill in Gaithersburg, transforming underutilized land into an environmental asset that brings local jobs and clean, renewable energy to the community. The project, a total of 6 MW, is divided into three 2 MW arrays, and will generate approximately 11.7 million kilowatt hours annually. Array 1 is for use by the County and under a power purchase agreement, providing the County government clean, renewable energy at no upfront cost. Arrays 2 and 3, each with 2 MW, will be the community solar project with 100% of the generated electricity provided to low-to-moderate income residents.

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“It should not be a surprise to anyone that Montgomery County is creating the nation’s largest community solar farm that will create energy directed to low- and moderate-income residents,” said County Executive Elrich. “Our Climate Action Plan calls for us to eliminate 100 percent of carbon emission by 2035 and it is projects like solar farms that will help us obtain this goal. I am very thankful to Neighborhood Sun and Ameresco, Inc for helping us create this community solar farm. And I am proud of the work of the Department of General Services for delivering another solar project in Montgomery County with 18 completed and four under construction. This project is not only what is good for the environment, but it also serves Montgomery County families who need help with their energy costs as well.” 

“The equitable and just deployment of renewable energy in the U.S. is critical to expanding our clean energy economy and addressing environmental injustice,” said Gary Skulnik, CEO, Neighborhood Sun. “As a Montgomery County business, we are especially pleased with the county’s support for expanding energy access into underserved communities. 

This project is expected to help the County reach its goal of eliminating greenhouse emissions by 2035 and the state of Maryland’s goal to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030. The energy produced annually by the arrays dedicated to community solar is expected to be approximately 7.9 million kilowatt-hours. That is equal to preventing 5,599 metric tons of CO2 from being released each year, which is equivalent to taking 1,218 cars off the road for one year and preventing 6,188,031 pounds of coal burned.

“This project blows away by an order of magnitude any other 100% LMI project in the state of Maryland, and is a testament to Neighborhood Sun’s leading role in bringing energy justice to the state,” Skulnik added. 

Project construction is expected to begin in early 2022.

“This project provides not only energy cost savings to the County and its participating low-to-moderate-income residents, but also leverages the use of an under-utilized land asset that will produce revenue for the County, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to its carbon neutrality goal,” said Ameresco Senior Vice President Jon Mancini. “Through this initiative, the County will demonstrate continued commitment to sustainability that will deliver economic and environmental benefits to the Montgomery County Community for many years to come.”

The project received a grant from the Maryland Energy Administration. 

“The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) was pleased to provide for this project over $950,000 in grant funding through MEA's Low-to-Moderate Income Community Solar Program, which provides incentives to reduce the cost of electricity generated from clean energy to Marylander's, with income limitations that result in energy costs being a disproportionate portion of their household expenses,” said Mary Beth Tung, Director, MEA.

Regulators in Maryland recently voted to expand the capacity of the state’s community solar program as well as improve access for LMI customer participation in the state’s Community Solar Pilot Program.

According to Wood Mackenzie, community solar is expected to exceed 900 MW of annual capacity in 2021. Maryland ranks in the Top 10 states in community solar according to Q2 2021 installations.

Maryland-based Neighborhood Sun currently manages nearly 80 megawatts of community solar projects, enough solar to power more than 10,000 homes.

Neighborhood Sun | http://www.neighborhoodsun.solar

Ameresco | http://www.ameresco.com