ROC Residents Shine Light on Renewable Energy Savings

Editor's note: This is a guest post from ROC USA, an organization that helps homeowners purchase and manage their mobile home parks.

Leaders of resident-owned communities (ROCs) are shining a light on a new way to increase savings and affordability for their neighbors: turning to solar power to cut energy costs and even lower lot rent for other members.

Mascoma Meadows Cooperative, a 50-home resident-owned community in Lebanon, NH, became the first ROC in the state to use solar power to generate some of its electricity this past year. The group was helped by ROC-NH, their ROC USA Network® affiliate, as well as members of the Vermont Law School in Royalton, VT.

The 384-panel solar array is fully operational, no matter the weather. 

“It really amazed me when they said even if there was no sun and it was covered with snow, it’s still producing,” said Board Secretary Linda Vincent.

The energy produced by the panels will be sold back into the grid and is the pollution-reduction equivalent of taking 17 cars off the road each year. Mascoma Meadows will use the profit from the array to reduce the monthly lot rent by $22 for homeowners in the neighborhood.

The array was built on a half-acre of land donated to the co-op by Pastor Bruce Jerome and the congregation of the neighboring Abundant Life Church of God. Construction began in early November. Steel stands were erected to hold the flat and deceivingly heavy panels that face out from the front of the community.

Its cost is covered by a $168,000 grant from the Renewable Energy Fund managed by the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission, and by an impact investor through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). The array was installed by Brentwood, NH-based ReVision Energy. 

The PPA enables Mascoma Meadows co-op to access the long-term economic and environmental benefits of solar electricity, while providing an opportunity for investors who share their values. After five years, Mascoma Meadows can purchase the array, at a discount, with financing from the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund.

Other ROCs are also starting to use solar energy to create extra savings for their residents.

Residents at Lakeville Village in Geneseo, NY, are working to install a solar field on a piece of land on their property.

They too have received help from their ROC USA Network® affiliate, PathStone Corporation. According to Richard Nereau, head of the Solar Committee at Lakeville, this has been vital in keeping the project going.

The 4-megawatt system (about 40 times bigger than the New Hampshire array) will be built on 20 acres by fall 2019. All the power produced by the system will be used in the surrounding area. An estimated 2,500 homes and businesses are expected to benefit from the system, Nereau said.

RER Energy Group of Reading, PA, will lease the land from the cooperative, and cover the entire cost of installation and maintenance of the array.

Lakeville Estates residents will receive a 10% discount on the cost of their electricity and the co-op will generate about $17,000 annually from the lease.

The revenue will be used to fund capital improvement projects, like road paving and creating a community center.

“It’s guaranteed income and we get to use it to improve the community,” said Board President Anne Radesi.

Another option would be for communities to subscribe to a solar garden, like some residents from Park Plaza Cooperative in Fridley, MN did. By subscribing to these solar gardens, credits are added to homeowners’ utility bills, resulting in savings for participants.

While there are some challenges with bringing solar power generation into manufactured home communities, others have been able to utilize it for added savings for their residents. However, these tend to be newly built up communities. Since ROC residents own the land that makes up their neighborhood and are able to democratically decide what to do with it, they are able start these projects sooner than privately owned communities.

Using solar power as a source of renewable energy has been gaining popularity over the last decade. On average, the solar market has experienced a 59% growth rate over the last decade. The technology has evolved to make panels lighter, more powerful and more affordable, especially for homeowners.

According to Solar Industry Research Data, enough solar energy is being produced to power 11.3 million homes in the United States.

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