BIPCO celebrates roof-top solar

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 5:30pm

On Wednesday, Aug. 5, the Block Island Utility District, doing business as Block Island Power Company, celebrated another milestone. The occasion was the “ribbon cutting” for the new rooftop solar system at the BIPCO property. Two solar panels stood in for the ribbon.

BIPCo President Jeffery Wright opened the small, socially distanced, and masked ceremony with many thanks for the contributors to the project. The solar system was a gift from an anonymous donor who has funded the Block Island Solar Initiative, with monies being administered through the Rhode Island Foundation.

Wright noted that since the system went live on July 24, it has been producing an average of 500 kilowatts hours per day. The annual output is expected to be 102,000 kilo-watt hours, enough to power 17 “average Block Island homes,” at 500 kwh per month each. He added that one of the donor’s goals was to reduce the power company’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Barbara MacMullan, Chair of the Utility District Board of Commissioners, also expressed her thanks, adding that the project was one that the Utility District would not have been able to fund on its own, and that it was of “great benefit to the community.”

Representing the Block Island Solar Initiative, Tony Pappas quipped that he was learning “a lot about megawatts and kilowatts,” as he also expressed his thanks.

The 285-panel system is located on four separate rooftops, including two panels on the office building, and was installed by Cool Energy. In his remarks, Cool Energy President and owner David Reidy thanked BIPCo for the opportunity and for being an “asset to the solar community.”

In addition to reducing reliance on fossil fuels, there will be other benefits to the Utility District and its customers. By decreasing energy purchases through the regional electric grid, related transmission and capacity costs will also see reductions.

Normally, under the Utility Restructuring Act, a power distributor may not also be a power producer, but BIPCo was able to secure the blessing for the project from the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission earlier this year.

The system also improves the financial health of the company. By booking an approximately $300,000 asset, with no related cost on its balance sheet, the debt to equity ration for the company is improved, thereby allowing it to more easily comply with the financial benchmarks set by its finance company, CFC Bank.