Affordable community solar options may be coming from an unexpected source in Acton, MA. The Congregation Beth Elohim (CBE) synagogue has broken ground on a series of solar canopies. The construction will take place near the synagogue and, upon completion, will result in a 302-kilowatt solar project.
It may not be the first solar project constructed at a house of worship, but CBE’s canopies will be the largest. The ample size of the installation will benefit CBE directly by offsetting its power usage, but it will also benefit the community. CBE will be opening up the solar canopies to provide 15 low-income residences with an affordable community solar option. These households will be able to subscribe to the solar canopies and will earn utility credits of up to 25% toward their monthly electricity bill. All residences looking to subscribe will need to be a customer of Eversource Energy.
The benefits of the 302-kilowatt project also include reducing the synagogue’s carbon footprint. It’s estimated that the four canopies will help reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 268 tons per year. That’s the same as taking 52 cars off the road. Rabbi Mike Rothbaum states that the canopies are part of “shmirat ha’adamah,” the Jewish value of guarding the planet.
It may be CBE’s solar project, but 621 Energy is taking over the development of the canopies. Funding for the bulk of the solar project came from Sunwealth and Eversource Energy and CBE had no upfront costs to begging construction. Barring any unexpected delays, CBE expects the four canopies will be operational by summer 2020. There has been no confirmation on who will handle member subscriptions for the community solar aspect of the project.
According to the synagogue’s website, planning for the solar canopies started in 2018. Originally, the panels were to be installed on the building’s roof, but it was not strong enough to hold their weight.