Frequently Asked Questions

Want to dive into the details on how solar can benefit your facility? Below is a list of frequently asked questions public purpose entities have about their solar energy project.

Are there other things you would like to know about our solar projects? Fill out our free solar evaluation form to get your questions answered!

Financial and Contractual 

A Power Purchase Agreement is an arrangement where the Customer pays for the electricity output of the solar array, which is owned by a third party solar company.  Secure Futures guarantees the performance of the system based on manufacturer specifications.

The Customer is charged an annual prepayment for electricity. At the end of each year, Secure Futures conducts a “true-up” to adjust the fee based on actual output of the system. For example, if the system has under produced, Secure Futures will credit that amount back to the Customer.

In Virginia, currently only Customers in Dominion territory can enter a solar PPA.

A Solar Self-Generation Agreement ®, similar to a PPA, is an arrangement where the Customer pays for the services provided by the third-party owned solar array. Secure Futures guarantees the performance of the system based on manufacturer specifications.

The Customer is charged an annual fee for solar services. A commissioning test of the system with the annual “true-up” will adjust the fee based on system performance.

Secure Futures offers the Solar SGA® everywhere, even in utility territories that disallow PPAs.

At the end of the PPA term, and the Customer can choose one of three primary options:

  1. The Customer may purchase the system at fair market value (FMV), and enter an operations & maintenance contract with Secure Futures or another provider
  2. The Customer may request Secure Futures to remove panels
  3. The Customer may extend the PPA with Secure Futures on a year to year basis

 

The Customer has no capital or operating expense. Instead, the Customer’s only cost is the cost of utility services, at a rate that matches or beats their current rate.

Higher cost:  Public purpose entities such as school districts, municipalities and non-profit organizations would effectively pay 50% more for the solar panels as they do not qualify for the 30% federal tax credit or other tax benefits.  Secure Futures and its investors qualify for those tax benefits, and can pass the savings on to the Customer through a lower PPA/Solar SGA® price.

No learning curve risk:  The Customer avoids the cost and uncertainty of acquiring expertise, including engineering, procurement, contracting, monitoring and more.

No performance risk:  If the Customer owns and operates its own system, they incur all the risk for performance.  Under a PPA/Solar SGA®, Secure Futures assumes all the risk of performance and guarantees the performance of the solar array.

Secure Futures enjoys strategic partnerships with large publicly traded investors and suppliers such as M&T Bank, who financed the Albemarle, Lexington, and Richmond projects. In the unlikely event that Secure Futures were to declare bankruptcy, the project financing entity would simply contract for project maintenance with another third-party provider.

Secure Futures structures the agreement over 20 years to amortize the cost of the financing, building, and maintaining the system.  An early purchase option is provided at the end of five to six years once the tax benefits have expired.

Secure Futures uses empirical data collected from our systems at Eastern Mennonite University (2010) and Washington and Lee University (2011) to determine the amount of demand savings that can reasonably be expected based on review of the Customer’s electric use profile.

Solar has the potential to greatly reduce demand costs, especially if the Customer observes peak demand during summer daytime air conditioning loads.

Secure Futures covers the cost to add the solar array to the Customer’s property insurance.

Each kilowatt hour is credited one-for-one value toward the time it was produced. (Virginia)

Operational and Technical

Secure Futures owns, operates and maintains the array.

Secure Futures coordinates closely with the Customer to minimize the impact of solar maintenance, including ample notification and consultation prior to a site visit.

The installation is the fastest part of the whole solar pathway and often takes less than one month depending on the scale and complexity of the array. Secure Futures coordinates closely with the Customer to minimize the impact of the installation.

Secure Futures guarantees performance of the solar array. Under a PPA, the Customer only pays for what the solar array produces, placing the performance risk with Secure Futures.

The Tier 1 panels Secure Futures installs are made to withstand golf-ball sized hail at over 250 miles per hour. – Watch the following Tier 1 Equipment Durability Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7nVSsgT18k

No. At minimum, the installation is designed to withstand the engineering design wind speeds dictated by the local authority having jurisdiction.

Yes. Secure Futures’ projects are grid connected, so the Customer will continue to have access to energy from the grid.

Secure Futures has historically offset roughly 20-50% of the Customer’s energy needs.

  • 22% – the six schools in Albemarle County
  • 25% – Lylburn Downing Middle School in Lexington City
  • 50% – Harrisonburg Gift and Thrift
  • 34% – the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The Tier 1 panels that Secure Futures installs overcome their embodied energy in roughly two years, and then produce 30 to 40 years of 100% clean energy.

The allocation of the SRECs is determined based on the goals of the Customer. Secure Futures usually keeps a portion of the SRECs and donates the rest to the Customer, who can then sell them or retire them to achieve sustainability goals.

Ideal solar sites have the following qualities:

  1. Commitment to sustainability
  2. Standing seam or flat membrane roof in good condition less than 5 years old
  3. South or SSW facing, unobstructed roof (no shading sources)
  4. 200+ kW size array at one or several sites
  5. Electricity budget of at least $100,000 per year with a high summer daytime cooling load

About The Roof

Secure Futures works with the roof manufacturing company to maintain the roof warranty. This includes covering the cost of any pre- and post-inspections of the roof and obtaining signed approval that the solar array will not void the roof warranty.

Secure Futures works with the roofer of record to repair the damages and maintain the warranty.

Secure Futures would work with your facility director to make sure that the part of the roof in need of repair is accessible. For patch repairs, the panels are easily removable to provide access to any portion of the roof.

Research at the University of California San Diego has found that solar arrays reduce cooling loads by as much as 38% and extend the life of the roof through reduced UV radiation (Dominguez et al., 2011). This value added is not factored in to the economic model.

The Tier 1 panels Secure Futures installs are made to withstand golf-ball sized hail at over 250 miles per hour. – Watch the following Tier 1 Equipment Durability Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7nVSsgT18k

Secure Futures focuses on standing seam metal and flat membrane rooftops because these do not require roof penetrations. On a standing seam metal roof, the panel racking uses industry standard S-5! Clamps, the same used for snow guards. On a flat membrane roof, the panel racking is self-ballasted. Secure Futures typically avoids shingled or slate rooftops because those racking systems do require penetrations.

About Solar, Educational Resources, Other

Mono-crystalline solar panels:

  • Higher grade silicon resulting in the highest available efficiency rate
  • Space efficient due to higher output yield
  • Longer service life (35+ years)
  • Higher cost, higher quality
  • Secure Futures uses highest quality mono-crystalline panels

Poly-crystalline solar panels:

  • Lower cost due to manufacturing process
  • Lower efficiency by 10% – 15%
  • Shorter service life – less temperature resistant (20+ years)
  • Lower cost, lower quality
  • NOTE: most developers offer only poly-crystalline panels

Secure Futures includes – at no cost to the school/university – a combination of live web-based data monitoring, teacher training, workshops, solar science kits, and ground-mounted interactive solar structures to bring the solar technology into the classroom.

See Secure Futures workshop with the teachers at Albemarle County – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFBe_57VXI8&t=4s

In the event of a technological breakthrough, Secure Futures would conduct a cost benefit analysis of replacing the installed array with the new technology. Usually, Secure Futures would expect the improvements would not justify replacing the high-quality Tier 1 equipment already installed.

Secure Futures watches the solar market carefully. The manufacturing process has greatly improved, driving down costs, and there are different options and uses for solar being invented. Solar film on skyscraper windows is one example. The efficiency and service life of many of these new technologies is relatively low compared to the Tier 1 panels Secure Futures installs. Additionally, improvements to proven silicon technology have only been increasing incrementally.

 

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