NRG puts 15 MW-AC of community solar online at Trappist Monastery

Community solar is booming in Massachusetts, with announcements of project completions across the Commonwealth as developers rush to get projects complete before the SREC-2 program closes on January 8.

Last Friday NRG added to this by commissioning a group of 10 community solar plants at a Trappist Monastery in Central Massachusetts, which total 14.7 MW-AC. Per Massachusetts regulations on community solar none of these projects is larger than 2 MW-AC, but together they represent 61,000 Hyundai monocrystalline PV modules on 200 acres at the sprawling monastery.

The 21st century solar installations at St. Joseph’s Abbey with its stone buildings and quiet fields and forests are a setting in contrasts, however, the monks say that this is in line with their beliefs.

“This is going to support the abbey and we are also going to be able to support some local residents and low-cost housing with electricity,” Cellarer Father Vincent told pv magazine. Cellarers have traditionally been responsible for provisioning of food and drink at monasteries.

Father Vincent flipping on the switch on the inverters at plant 9. Image: pv magazine.
Father Vincent flipping on the switch on the inverters at plant 9. Image: pv magazine.

Together with anchor subscribers, NRG says that it has over 15,000 residential subscribers to these community solar projects. By Massachusetts law community solar projects must offer at least half of their output to consumers who subscribe for less than 25 kW.

Trappist monks follow St. Benedict’s Rule, which among other things calls for monks to live by the work of their hands. As such they produce goods which are sold to sustain the monastery, and in addition to its fruit preserves St. Joseph’s Abbey is famous for having the only Trappist Brewery outside of Europe.

With the projects NRG has a total of 17 MW-AC of community solar online in Massachusetts, and says that it plans to break ground on several more projects in coming months.

NRG’s commissioning of the St. Josephs Abbey project follows on Nexamp’s completion of 4 MW-AC of solar projects at two locations during the last two weeks.

Overall, GTM Research expects over 200 MW-DC of community solar to be completed in Massachusetts from 2016 through 2018, with the majority of that capacity falling in the first half of 2017. Massachusetts has a January 8 deadline for projects to reach mechanical completion for full credit under SREC-2, but projects can still qualify under the program for a lesser SREC factor if they are completed by May.