A new solar array, which the installers say is the largest in downtown Rutland, will be unveiled by BROC-Community Action in Southwestern Vermont at an Earth Day-themed event Tuesday. Tom Donahue, CEO of BROC, said the project is a team effort involving Green Mountain Power and Same Sun of Vermont. Having the array in place will help BROC, a nonprofit organization that helps people in poverty or crisis pursue financial independence, save money that can instead be used for th group's mission, Donahue said. The total solar array, created as two complementary projects, placed more than 200 panels on the roof of BROC's building Union Street. Over the life of the array, which is guaranteed for 30 years, the panels are projected to save BROC at least $250,000 in energy costs and almost 56,000 pounds of carbon pollution a year. Donahue said the project had been discussed with GMP officials about two years ago. Steve Costello, a vice president at Green Mountain Power, said the utility set aside funding for about 10 years to help nonprofits move to solar energy arrays as a power source. The Paramount Theatre, the offices of PEG-TV, the Rutland Community Food Shelf and several area churches were among the beneficiaries. “We've heard from customers for a long time that the things that they care about are low-cost and low-carbon," Donahue said. "This kinda scratches both those itches. Helps reduce costs for the recipient organization and it helps to lower out collective carbon footprint." About two years ago, grant funding remained but there was no applicant so Costello invited Donahue to submit a proposal which was approved. The total cost of the first 60 panels, about $75,000, will be primarily covered by the GMP grant for $20,000, a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant of about $25,000 and a low-interest loan from the USDA for about $25,000. For the remaining 153 panels,BROC entered a lease-like program with Same Sun. Donahue pointed out the repayment to Same Sun will happen in less than 10 years, giving BROC at least another 20 years of benefit from the solar array. The repayments to Same Sun require BROC to pay the solar company 90 percent of whatever the nonprofit saves from its energy cost each month, tying the amount paid to the performance of the solar panels. Khanti Munro, vice president of Same Sun, said the solar company didn't intend to lease its products, but wanted to find a way to create a benefit for nonprofits that can't take advantage of the federal tax credit. “This is the type of project that really aligns with our mission," Munro said. "Solar has always been the right thing for the environment and now it's the smart thing financially too.” Donahue said he appreciated the aesthetic concerns raised about some solar arrays, but said the BROC solar panels will blend in with the roof. In addition to the savings from the panel, which will be realized through net-metering, and which can be used to help BROC clients, Donahue said he was also proud of the social good of reducing BROC's carbon use. While BROC is celebrating its solar array Tuesday, the nonprofit is also pursuing a separate project, a “deep retrofit” of its building. With the assistance of Efficiency Vermont, BROC will replace the lights, the HVAC and the windows, along with updating the building's weatherization to “seal in” the benefits. The solar project was tied to Earth Day. Donahue said the original plan was to have the celebration Sunday, which is Earth Day, but he asked for a delay to have first-grade students from Rutland Northeast and Northwest elementary schools on hand to sing Tuesday. The event starts at 9:30 a.m. at BROC, located at 45 Union St. in Rutland.

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