Mill Street Solar Project in Gardner, MA will continue to benefit city and customers
BlueHub Energy, an affiliate of BlueHub Capital working to expand access to clean energy, today announces the sale of its successful Mill Street Solar Project in Gardner, MA to Sunwealth, a clean energy investment firm. The purchase ensures long-term benefits to the City of Gardner and the solar field’s customers—all local nonprofits.
Working with the City of Gardner and its Redevelopment Authority (GRA), BlueHub transformed a barren brownfield site into a solar field sporting a 3,287-panel, one-megawatt ground-mounted solar array in 2014. The system generates 1.2 million kilowatt hours per year, enough to serve 165 homes.
“We developed the solar system and worked in partnership with the City of Gardner to get the panels up and running,” said DeWitt Jones, president of BlueHub Energy. “Now that the system has been operating and mature, we have been able to ensure long-term benefits to our customers by selling the system to Sunwealth. This has been a very successful endeavor for BlueHub and the sale to Sunwealth, an experienced and mission-aligned manager of solar projects, is a positive development for all involved.”
The City of Gardner has also seen significant benefits. “The City of Gardner looks forward to continuing successful relationship we’ve formed with BlueHub Energy over the past eight years with the new owners of the solar facility, Sunwealth,” said Mayor Michael Nicholson. “We are confident that Sunwealth will continue to work with the local businesses benefiting from this project while assisting the City in maintaining our renewable energy and sustainability goals.”
“The Gardner Redevelopment Authority looks forward to continuing its public-private business relationship with Sunwealth in advancing our economic development goals within the Mill Street Corridor Urban Renewal Area,” said Ron Cormier, chairman of the Gardner Redevelopment Authority.
To date, four local organizations—GAAMHA, Inc., Boys and Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster, Heywood Wakefield Commons Assisted Living Facility and affordable housing development Olde English Village—have saved over $350,000 combined on their electricity bills by utilizing solar power from the Mill Street Solar Project.
Energy produced by the solar array is counted in virtual net metering credits, which are applied to the customers’ utility bills. Since BlueHub sells the credits at a below-market fixed price, the organizations that purchase the credits save money on their utility bills. In addition, because the value of net metering credits goes up and down in line with utility rates, utility rate increases are offset by higher net metering credits, thereby protecting the customers against future utility price increases. BlueHub selected Sunwealth, an impact-driven purchaser, to ensure that these benefits to customers continue. As part of the sale, Sunwealth will extend the net metering contracts for 10 additional years, guaranteeing that the customers’ electric bills remain stable for the next 12 years.
“The Mill Street Solar Project demonstrates how community solar can bring meaningful savings to organizations providing services in our communities, while delivering clean energy to the grid,” said Jon Abe, CEO of Sunwealth. “We are proud to acquire this project from BlueHub and ensure that these economic benefits continue to accrue to the communities that need them most.”
GAAMHA, Inc. is a provider of services to adults with developmental disabilities, persons with substance use disorders and seniors. As with many nonprofits, GAAMHA’s budget is tight, and every dollar counts. At one time, their electricity rates were increasing so rapidly the organization feared the costs would overwhelm their ability to deliver services.
“The savings provided by BlueHub’s solar energy directly improves services to the disabled individuals in our Developmental Services Program, the men and women battling substance abuse disorders in our residential programs and the seniors and others utilizing our transportation services,” said Tracy Hutchinson, President and CEO of GAAMHA.
BlueHub Energy has long focused on climate change and environmental justice, working to mitigate the negative effects for low-income communities, while also ensuring that everyone, despite where they live or their level of wealth, can access renewable energy sources. BlueHub Energy develops innovative financing and business models that expand access to solar and other renewable sources for people with low incomes.
BlueHub Energy solar panels across Massachusetts generate over 8 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually—enough to power the electricity use of almost 1,100 houses. The greenhouse gas emissions avoided through the use of its solar panels is equal to the amount created by over 1,270 cars driven for one year, or a total of nearly 15 million miles.
Sunwealth has developed and financed over 500 community-based solar projects providing clean energy, savings and green jobs in underserved solar markets in Massachusetts and beyond. These projects will deliver close to $40 million in lifetime energy savings – or close to $0.50 of savings for every dollar invested – to nonprofit organizations, businesses, municipalities, houses of worship and low- and moderate-income individuals, while providing close to 900 green jobs and $70 million in revenues for local solar developers and installers.
About BlueHub Capital
BlueHub Capital is a national nonprofit community finance organization with a decades-long history of building healthy communities where low-income people live and work. Since 1985, BlueHub Capital has invested over $2.4 billion to support low-income communities, creating and preserving over 28,000 units of affordable housing, 19,000 jobs, healthcare services for more than 197,000 patients, education and daycare for more than 85,000 children, and prevented over 1,150 foreclosure-related evictions. To learn more about BlueHub Capital and the impact of its investments, visit bluehubcapital.org.
Sunwealth is a clean energy investment firm changing who has access to renewable energy by changing the way we invest in it. Since 2014, Sunwealth has invested over $86 million in community-based solar projects providing energy access, savings and jobs to communities while delivering strong, stable financial returns to investors. The company has attracted attracted investment from leading impact-driven investors, including Calvert Impact Capital, Sierra Club Foundation, Boston Impact Initiative and over 400 high net worth individuals, foundations, family offices, endowments and corporations. In 2021, Impact Assets named Sunwealth to its IA50, a leading list of impact fund managers; the Solar Energy Business Association of New England (SEBANE) named Sunwealth its 2021 Member Company of the Year. Learn more at www.sunwealth.com.
About the City of Gardner
Since becoming a Green Community in 2011, the City of Gardner has undertaken numerous energy efficiency and power generation projects. The City has invested over $250,000 in energy efficiency projects in schools and other municipal buildings saving the City thousands of dollars a year. The City is also becoming a hub for renewable energy in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with close to 30 megawatts of renewable energy installed. The City will continue to be proactive in developing and implementing renewable energy and sustainable projects and practices.
About the Gardner Redevelopment Authority
The Gardner Redevelopment Authority (GRA) is an independent economic development agency for the City of Gardner. The GRA was established in 1966 during the administration of Mayor Cyrille Landry in accordance with the provisions Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 121, as amended. The GRA partners with the City and the private sector to increase economic opportunities for the City and its residents.