Innovative Applications and Technology for Solar

This month's iteration of Funding the Future brings an exciting new update for Leyline readers. Leyline Renewable Capital recently partnered with SaveSolar, a Washington, D.C.-based company specializing in financing and developing community solar, particularly in affordable housing communities. Leyline will provide SaveSolar with $10 million in construction capital to develop 10.3 megawatts of commercial, residential, and government rooftop solar projects, which will then offer discounted energy and offset carbon emissions in the city. We sat down with SaveSolar's chief operating officer, Alex Winn, to learn more about the types of initiatives which may stem from our partnership. Alex is an expert in the solar field, with a strong background in solar policy research, market trends, and the development of smart, efficient solar financing.

While many people tend to envision solar projects as large, ground-mounted, industrial arrays, this is not the case in Washington, D.C. Winn describes the city as a "flexible community solar market" that allows for tiny panel systems on a rooftop, which are then tied into the grid at a cheap price point and at multiple interconnections within one site. SaveSolar works primarily with two types of building projects: The first type of site typically involves a high-rise, market-rate apartment building, or condominium; the second entails multi-building, low-income housing developments in varying levels of upkeep. Though the projects and the challenges each face are different, SaveSolar is using similar types of innovative technology to address their unique hurdles.

Enter a new solar bracing design from Universal Renewables. These proprietary solar canopies are meant for installation over top of existing urban roofs and roof equipment, allowing solar installation where it was previously challenging and/or unavailable. For flat-roofed apartment buildings, bulky HVAC units, plumbing equipment, and other obstructions create less-than-ideal conditions for solar panels. The new solar rackings, however, raise panels more than six feet above the roof, allowing a solar array over top and creating space for technicians to service the equipment. This makes it easy for roof maintenance or replacement during the life of the solar system, without having to disturb or remove any panels.

Low-income housing projects face similar issues; in these situations, communities that wish to utilize solar often do not have enough money to finance necessary reroofing prior to installation. The elevated solar canopies allow developments to avoid complete reroofing, as panels can stand above rooftops that are unsuitable for other types of solar bracing. This rooftop "expansion" can nearly double the size of a project, providing more residents with efficient, clean power.

Though these types of ventures are the norm for SaveSolar, the new partnership with Leyline is enabling the company to mix up its portfolio. One of these projects is a food hall in downtown D.C. With the aid of Leyline's financing, SaveSolar will build a rooftop solar canopy under which customers can experience shaded outdoor dining. This new development will not only increase the sustainability and appeal of the building, but will also allow for net-metering and create an additional revenue stream.

Winn also noted that without Leyline's backing, SaveSolar wouldn't have the option to pursue one of the more unique initiatives in its pipeline. A 100-year- old cemetery in D.C. was looking for new ways to monetize its property, given that it doesn't get a lot of new "residents" anymore. SaveSolar is working to develop a 500-kilowatt solar canopy over top of the tombstones, which will then export energy to the local grid, benefit nearby residents, and sustainably support the economic viability of the cemetery.

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