5 Questions with OAS About Solar Installation

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New Columbia Solar (NCS) worked with the Organization of American States (OAS) to install a 216 kW solar facility at their General Secretariat Building (GSB) in late 2020. This system was installed behind the meter and is owned and operated by NCS who has been able to sell the power back to OAS at $0/kWh (no cost power). OAS has been a knowledgeable partner with a larger long-term sustainability goal spearheaded by their Department of General Services (DGS) team. Their expertise provides invaluable insight into how partnering with NCS helps businesses and organizations lower operational costs and enhance energy efficiency. Here, they answer questions about solar installation that often crop up for institutions and business exploring solarizing their own buildings.

 

Q: What motivated you to explore onsite solar?

In 2017, the organization became aware of the DC Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and recognized its potentially significant impact on our organization. This revelation coincided with our ongoing efforts to implement a comprehensive strategy to enhance our environmental sustainability.

Driven by our commitment to demonstrate leadership in the transition to clean energy and climate change mitigation, the OAS General Secretariat, through the Department of General Services (DGS) of the Secretariat for Administration and Finance (SAF), decided to explore on-site solar solutions. We aimed to reduce operating costs and energy consumption by installing a solar facility on the roof of the General Secretariat Building (GSB).

Q: What mental hurdles or concerns did you encounter at the organizations when initially exploring rooftop solar?

Initially, we faced several significant concerns. One of the primary worries was the potential damage to the roof. The roof replacement project was already a major undertaking, and there was considerable anxiety about the potential damage that the installation of solar panels might cause. Additionally, there were concerns about the associated costs and whether we had the budget to support a project of this scale.

Another major concern was the potential impact on the building’s operations, particularly in terms of potential damage to the electrical system. Fortunately, we had strong support and guidance from our procurement and legal departments, which was crucial in navigating and addressing these challenges effectively.

To mitigate these concerns, we worked closely with New Columbia Solar (NCS) to adjust the system’s specifications, ensuring that the installation would not perforate the roof. Additionally, we engaged a third-party engineering company to support and analyze any potential risks to the electrical system. These measures, along with the projected financial benefits and our commitment to sustainability, provided the necessary motivation to address and overcome these concerns.

Through careful planning and coordination across multiple departments, including significant support from our procurement and legal teams, we successfully implemented the solar project, reinforcing our dedication to sustainable operations and long-term cost savings.

 

Q: How was it like working with the NCS during the solar installation process?

Working with New Columbia Solar (NCS) during the solar installation process was a highly positive and enriching experience. At every stage, we were supported by highly professional staff who demonstrated a deep understanding of the unique challenges our organization faced in executing this project.

From the beginning, the team at NCS was committed to our success. We had invaluable support from their CEO, Mike Healey, who was consistently attentive and proactive in ensuring that the project stayed on track and met our expectations. The engineering team that assisted with the installation was also exceptional, offering expert guidance and support that proved crucial during the various phases of the project. Currently, we are working closely with Senior O&M Manager Nico Rios, who has been instrumental in helping us maximize the benefits of our solar system.

Additionally, having NCS participate in our 2024 Earth Day celebrations was a wonderful experience. Their presence provided our workforce with valuable information about solar panels and the broader impact of renewable energy. It was an excellent opportunity for our employees to engage with the project and understand its significance, further fostering a culture of sustainability within our organization.

 

Q: Did OAS face any disruptions to its operations during the construction of the system?

During the installation process, we encountered no significant issues.

Overall, the proactive measures and close cooperation with NCS allowed us to effectively manage and mitigate potential disruptions, ensuring the continuous and efficient operation of the solar system.

 

Q: How has the solar system impacted the OAS’s energy costs and sustainability goals?

Installing the solar system at the General Secretariat Building (GSB) was a crucial first step in our long-term sustainability journey. Since its implementation, the system has helped us reduce our on-site energy consumption by 7%, significantly improving our efforts to lower operational costs and enhance energy efficiency.

Currently, New Columbia Solar (NCS) owns the Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) associated with the solar system. As an organization, we continue to explore additional options to increase our use of sustainable energy sources. Beyond the solar installation, we are engaged in a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), where 50% of our energy comes from wind sources. We aim to significantly increase this percentage by 2026, reflecting our ongoing commitment to sustainability and renewable energy.

This initial project with NCS has set a strong foundation for future initiatives. It has not only provided immediate benefits in terms of energy cost reduction but also reinforced our dedication to achieving long-term sustainability goals. As we continue to explore and implement additional renewable energy solutions, we remain focused on enhancing our environmental impact and operational efficiency.

 

About the OAS

The Organization of American States (OAS) is the main political forum in the region, bringing together nations of the Western Hemisphere to jointly promote democracy, strengthen human rights, promote peace, security, and cooperation, and advance in achieving common interests. Since its origin, the OAS has aimed to prevent conflicts and provide political stability, social inclusion, and prosperity in the region through dialogue and collective actions such as cooperation and mediation.

The Organization of American States (OAS) is committed to sustainability in all of its operations, both at headquarters as well as implementing projects throughout the Americas, contributing to the broader goals of energy efficiency and environmental stewardship.

About New Columbia Solar

New Columbia Solar is a Washington, DC-based solar energy company, financier, owner, and operator of commercial and industrial solar energy facilities. Founded in 2016, the company y has grown to be the largest and most comprehensive solar energy company in the District of Columbia. Our mission is to help landlord’s and their surrounding communities take advantage of renewable energy and the profits and energy resiliency it provides. For more information, visit: www.newcolumbiasolar.com

Email: [email protected]

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