The utility-scale landscape in the U.S. is evolving at pace, with solar supply deals outside of Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) becoming increasingly common. Today SunEdison signed a deal that will see it establish community solar gardens that will be used to offset the electricity usage of a local Minnesotan college.
The deal could be labeled a virtual PPA, where the off taker signs a contract to purchase the solar electricity, while drawing from the grid as normal. In yesterdays Solar Summit GTM analyst Shayle Kann addressed these types of deals as representing a major pillar of PV power plants development in the future, employing the term offsite wholesale PV to describe them.
The SunEdison, Macalester College deal is underpinned by Minnesotas innovative solar gardens legislation. This particular deal allows for electricity from the local solar arrays to offset up to 120% of a Macalesters consumption. SunEdisons Sam Youneszadeh said the St Paul school was one of the first colleges to take part in the companys solar garden scheme.
Our solar garden program allows customers to enjoy the benefits of solar even when they are unable to install solar systems on their property, said Youneszadeh. We expect to see more schools, colleges, and universities follow Macalester College’s lead and take advantage of the solar gardens program in the near future.
SunEdison said that it would likely offer the project to yieldco TerraForm Power on completion. It has not specified the capacity of the solar gardens when complete, nor their location. SunEdison Services will provide O&M and monitoring on the site.
Given our projected consumption patterns and the expected rising trend in electricity rates over the period of the agreement, we believe that the savings over the term of the agreement could be in the millions of dollars, said Macalesters David Wheaton. Those savings will begin as soon as the solar gardens are operational and will benefit both current and future students. Wheaton said the college had long been engaged with environmental and energy initiatives.