The Municipalities, Universities, Schools and Hospitals (MUSH) market has consisted of some of the most attractive solar project opportunities. MUSH projects have been the “lower hanging fruit” in the slow-going, non-residential rooftop solar market, which installed nearly 1.5GW of solar in 2016, lagging behind the 2.5GW of residential and over 10GW of utility installed last year.
MUSH projects, unlike many other projects in the commercial and industrial (C&I), are attractive to investors because of their appealing credit. MUSH projects are attractive to developers, as interested solar customers often issue public RFPs that allow everyone to compete and give regional developers a chance to leverage their local connections and local market knowledge in bids.
As the price of solar continues to fall, so does the practicality it serves across all sectors. While sustainability goals were frequent drivers of early MUSH solar, the case now is more often a simple cost decision, where the sustainability of the projects is an added benefit. That’s because solar allows municipalities, universities, schools, and hospitals to lock into predictable energy prices through a PPA that allows them to hedge against the often volatile wholesale energy market.
For example, in NPR’s recent interview with the mayor of Georgetown, TX, a town powered 100 percent by renewable energy, the decision to “go green” was more about dollars than green energy and sustainability. For towns that want to prioritize both sustainability and costs, solar can be the best of both worlds.
The same can be said for schools. Solar can provide clean energy education to students along with the cost effectiveness of the solution. Energy costs in public schools often exceed the cost of supplies and books, and frequently include monthly usage and peak energy fees, which can be expensive given their spikey load profiles. Although savings vary school to school based on the local market conditions, in aggregate, according to SEIA, 3,752 K-12 schools the United States save a total $77.8 million a year through solar, money that can support other school programs.
Sol Systems is currently finishing a large 34-building portfolio of projects with the DC Department of General Services (DGS), which includes 28 projects on public schools where students will gain first-hand experience learning about clean energy. The successes of DGS and Georgetown, TX are only two small chapters in a larger book that is telling a simple story: solar is continuing to work in the MUSH market.
As with the rest of the renewables market, the success of solar in the MUSH market greatly corresponds with the regulatory environment. As more states enact solar-friendly legislation, more municipalities can lock into structures like PPAs (still illegal in many states) that provide long-term price certainty on their energy. As an alternative, states that favor community solar legislation also offer the opportunity for municipalities to benefit from leasing land to developers of those projects.
The market continues to be favorable, and we are excited to see MUSH projects pencil in new markets as the cost of solar continues to decline. For municipalities, universities, schools or hospitals looking to learn more about going solar, please contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Developers in need of financing for their MUSH projects can contact email@example.com.
This is an excerpt from the March 2017 edition of The SOL SOURCE, a monthly electronic newsletter analyzing the latest trends in renewable energy based on our unique position in the solar financing space. To view the full Journal, please subscribe or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Sol Systems, a national solar finance and development firm, delivers sophisticated, customized services for institutional, corporate, and municipal customers. Sol is employee-owned, and has been profitable since inception in 2008. Sol is backed by Sempra Energy, a $25+ billion energy company.
Over the last eight years, Sol Systems has delivered more than 500MW of solar projects for Fortune 100 companies, municipalities, universities, churches, and small businesses. Sol now manages over $650 million in solar energy assets for utilities, banks, and Fortune 500 companies.
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